Getting From Information To Knowledge And Ultimately Expertise

2014-06-07 06.54.28-1I spend a considerable time consuming information, in fact I probably spend more time reading, listening and watching work related content than I do any other activity in my day.  Consuming for it’s own sake though isn’t very satisfying, I need a purpose in life and that purpose is enabled, but not delivered by consumption. 

In order to be useful the information needs to be curated, turned from a set of random facts into a structured model of the world, into connections, trends and predictions.  Ideas need to gradually be shaped, honed by discussion and tested against reality.

These ideas then need to be applied to solve real world challenges, develop the business, improve peoples lives.  They won’t be right but I learn from applying them, sometimes hard lessons.

Often the idea is right, but the timing is wrong or I don’t sell it well enough, or put enough energy into it to make it scale.  There’s lot that can go wrong between an idea and a result, a lot to learn.

Learning from experience, refining ideas, changing approach or timing is the process that turns raw knowledge into expertise, it’s often subtle changes that make all the difference between success and failure, good and great.  Often in the IT industry we don’t get chance to develop deep expertise in any one area, because change is so rapid, but learning from applying many related ideas does prove useful.  Observing others following the same process is useful too.

Finally I think it’s important to share, both the process and the outcomes, both good and bad.  Sharing forces me to work through what I’ve learned, to internalise it in a way that nothing else ever does.  I can do this by explaining/teaching or coaching/mentoring, but I also like to share on my blog which is much more scalable and provides me with an archive to help me recall the knowledge again in the future. 

As I’ve written this blog for example I’ve got a clearer picture of the yawning gulf that exists between information and knowledge and between knowledge and expertise, and just how often we confuse the them.

The photo today is of the river the runs through Cambridge University where my daughter was studying at the time I took the picture.  I took it on the way to Caffe Nero where I do a lot of the reading, curating and sharing process described in this blog post.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

3 Responses

  1. Vince says:

    I’d like your thoughts on the difference between expertise and wisdom. To my thinking, wisdom is much undervalued – knowledge seems to be king. But wisdom is more valuable.

    Also in a changing society, where the demographics have older people working longer. We have traditionally seen that older people have more wisdom. But that is not always true. Older people can often become locked into what was always done = inertia.

  2. wisdom comes with time, you have to have repeatedly applied knowledge, failed many times, understood why you failed, figured out how to pick between alternatives and when not to act at all, then you might have developed wisdom.

  3. I think wisdom is also associated with conceptual thinking, ie being able to see the common patterns and structure, rather than just a specific implementation. As you get older I’m sure you see this like I do, nothing is new, it’s just a repackaging of things we have seen hyped and failed many time. There are patterns that also repeatedly succeed. While we need to keep open to the ‘big new thing’ we also need to have this longer term perspective.

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