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Is there an app for knowledge?

In recent years, the business landscape has been changing faster: start-ups are favored over global conglomerates and our teams are becoming global and virtual as we're utilizing freelancers and remote workers in much greater numbers. Even the tools we're using have become micro-services packaged into tiny apps that you can plug-in to almost any device. There's one thing, however, that continues to increase at an alarming pace. which is "information". 

How does your organization or team manage that information? It's bouncing from email to files in a cloud to messaging systems to productivity tools and to analytics software.

While every single one of these tools is designed to help make information more accessible and remove the barriers to effective communication, there's one major downside that seems to be ignored. And that's "knowledge".
 

Information is not Knowledge

We tend to assume that the more information we gather, the more knowledge we accumulate. Several years ago, I wrote a blog that underlined how difficult it is for organizations to properly gather, utilize, and disseminate knowledge at your fingertips.

Today, we all set up new tools and breathe a sigh of relief as we feel they solve our problems. But I have some concerns with our reliance on information:

  1. Information is not always entered and kept up to date.
  2. These apps manage the what, not the how.
  3. They don't help us learn and grow from experience.

There's a difference between information and knowledge:

information: noun  in·for·ma·tion  \ ˌin-fər-ˈmā-shən \

(1) facts provided or learned about something or someone
(2) what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things
(3) : the what

knowledge: noun  knowl·edge  \ ˈnä-lij \

(1) facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
(2) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
(3) : the how

The difference is slight, but it's there: information is gained from investigation or study, whereas knowledge is gained through experience or familiarity. The new tools that have emerged deal mostly with information, not knowledge.

Now, I'm not saying that these tools are useless. They provide a huge amount of value and make our lives much easier, especially with making decisions. However, in order for us to grow with information, we augment it with knowledge.
 

Making knowledge actionable

A key difference about knowledge is not what it is, but how it's acquired, understood, and act uppon. In order for knowledge to be transferred, it's best learned through experience. It's the action that makes the knowledge more powerful than information. What exactly does this mean?

Let's say you're an executive chef, managing a kitchen of about 10 people. It's your job to create new menu items. Thanks to your several years of experience, you've developed a process that allows you to create new dishes in record time. This process you've created has become instinctive and it's likely a combination of knowledge you picked up from years working with a renowned chef or from mistakes via trial and error. 

The tips you learned might be written in a cookbook, but there are some nuances you couldn't have gotten from the books (like how to flick your wrist just so, in order to perfect the dispensing of a foam). These skills were gained or transferred to you through a process of doing and improving. 

Look at a new product development scenario. Same applies. As we implement NPD projects, we run into issues, learn from mistakes, and improve our process. This is knowledge for the knowledge worker.
 

SHARE AND GROW

Companies and projects are successful when the teams are open, honest, and collaborative. They share their own experiences, ideas, and help others in need. This is how we make sure the critical tidbits of knowledge are continuously passed down and for the next person to learn, succeed, and grow.

So, when looking for apps to help us improve our access to information about what's happening, also look for visual process apps (such as PieMatrix) that are designed to capture and share knowledge, making it easier for team members to know how to make things happen and how to improve things over time.

Written by Paul Dandurand

Photo by John