This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Three questions from Richard McDermott

Martin Dugage at Mopsos took away Three questions from Richard McDermott* at the recent Ark Conference.  He provides his answers, and I figured I'd could take a crack at them too.  Feel free to write your own answers.

Question 1: Is more knowledge always better? Are we better off with too much information than with just the information we need?

This is certainly what we are led to believe: more is always better, right?  Particularly families and cultures that value education wouldn't have a problem with the idea.  But then, the question needs to be refined: more knowledge about what?  At some point, you know enough to make a good enough decision.  This idea of "good enough" was discussed in some classes this summer around the idea of improving manufacturing operations.  I'm a math-and-models kind of guy, and am more than happy to go down a route of optimization and writing complex models of the facility.  For this to work properly, one would need more data than most manufacturers have.  And even if it were available, it is never as accurate as optimization routines need it to be.  Good enough is view that points at the one constraint in the facility and directs the organization to center there, rather than on the problems that wander all over the plant.

The other aspect to this question is the "too much information" question.  Taken to extremes, we can get loads and loads of information, but we don't have time to do any intelligent processing of it.  Even if the information is relevant, with large quantities of it, we just can't absorb it and make it useful to the decision-making process.

Question 2: Is more connectivity better? Are we better off being extremely well connected?

I immediately think of the infrastructure version of "connectivity" (i.e. always on, high-speed internet).  Martin heard human-to-human connectivity, which is a more interesting question. 

It really depends on the kind of person you are.  Not everyone can or should be well-connected, in whatever measure you have.  I view this as part of the questions one asks about their goals and needs from time to time.  What skills and resources do I need to get my work done?  Do I have them, or do I have access to them through my business, social, personal, family... networks?  I'm not suggesting mercenary use of LinkedIn, but rather intelligent thought about what I have at my "fingertips."

Question 3: How do we deepen our expertise?

Somehow this feels like a re-asking of the first question.  But then not really.  Expertise is a combination of experience, skill and knowledge.  The online etymology dictionary tells me, "knowledge gained by repeated trials"  To me, the best way to deepen expertise is from experience.  But I have deepened my expertise through interaction with other experts.  I may not have to directly experience the situation to learn and grow my own expertise, based on what and how I learn from others who have the experience.  I sense that I can deepen my expertise through reading and other educational means - maybe this isn't really expertise.  The fastest route to deeper expertise would be to work with experts on real problems, as I would get the benefit of their experience as well as seeing how it applies, first hand: apprenticeship, co-operative education.

* In case you don't know Richard McDermott is one of the big thinkers in the communities and knowledge management in general.  He's one of the co-authors of Cultivating Communities of Practice.

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