Is Knowledge All Powerful?

knowledge is power

It has often been said that knowledge is power, and for good reason.

Knowledge can enable us to improve, protect, help, or hurt, and which of these we choose can decide the meaning in our lives.

The question is, though, is knowing actionable or is it just the first step to more knowing, and do those steps lead to effective results? In short, is there a disconnect between learning and doing?

I’ll give you a real life example. One of my very good friends with a Ph.D. and two Masters degrees decided he wanted to learn to code at the same time as my co-founder a year and a half ago. This is a brilliant guy. He came in to my office with a whole stack of books explaining how it works, and today, he knows all about it. He has a very good understanding and he can answer questions for you.

However, he hasn’t built anything. He’s tried and it hasn’t gone so well. He “knows” all about it, he’s studied it, but he can’t “do” it. (My theory is the fact that he was taught “not to get the answer wrong” is the impediment.) Meanwhile, my co-founder screws up stuff left and right then fixes it and makes it work, and I’ll be damned if she isn’t starting to get good at this. Do you see my point?

Our learning structures weren’t traditionally built to learn from getting the answer wrong, but instead to get the answer right at any cost. (More on this from Sir Ken Robinson.) Unfortunately, the accelerated environment that we now find ourselves in doesn’t lend itself well to the fear of wrong answers.

As those in the world of startup ventures know, you have to gravitate toward trying stuff out and failing, and then learn quickly in order to iterate. Being scared to get the answer wrong adds too much time to this equation. I’ve struggled with this issue myself, but even Steve Jobs, as picky as he was about getting every product right, stressed not being afraid to ship and take risks or make mistakes, because that’s the only way you really learn.  Much like natural selection, in order to evolve, ideas need to become mistakes just like animals need to die.

The point is that going forward, there may need to be more emphasis on getting people to learn coping and adapting skills to help close the knowing/doing gap.

My conclusion? Perhaps the real answer is this:

All knowledge is potentially all powerful, but it depends on what you do with it.

Go forth learners, and don’t be afraid to change the world.


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Learning Exchange & the Holiday Spirit

Happy Holidays from LRNGO!I had just finished giving a presentation on the learning exchange concept at Start Houston for the Houston Lean Startup Circle Meetup Group, when afterward someone came up to me and said it was great timing for this going into the holidays.

I didn’t really get it at first, but as she continued with her analogy, it became evident how appropriate that statement was.  It’s just that I was so used to talking about learning exchange year-round that I hadn’t thought to see the connection.

What she was referring to was how I closed my talk.  I emphasized something that people who use LRNGO already know: when you practice the learning exchange concept to learn, you can’t help but get better at teaching.

Either you get better at teaching and helping others, or no one wants to trade with you—and as they continue doing this, often people begin to see the world differently.

When they meet other people, questions like “What do you do?” and “What service do you provide?” start to become “What do you know?” and “What can I learn from you?”

Eventually, we stop seeing people in terms of what they do, and instead start seeing them in terms of what they know.  It’s a complete re-thinking of social economics.

But what really invoked the holiday spirit for her was the dynamic of the exchange itself.

Do you see the connection?

In a learning exchange, teaching and learning (giving and receiving) are completely dependent on each other. You can’t do one without also doing the other.

No matter what religion you believe or which holiday you celebrate, I doubt you receive without giving.

Even if it were possible to receive without giving in return, imagine how hollow it would seem.

You would only be participating in half of the system, and would never benefit from the results that giving brings.

Partly as a result of that conversation, the team and I are now making plans to change the user terminology and graphics on LRNGO from the keyword “Trade” to “Exchange.”

Learning is a gift, and as with the exchange of gifts, the “exchange” of learning is a more appropriate term than Trade or Barter, which simply insinuates an item or a service.

We’re looking forward to making this update along with many others, and adding a lot of exciting new features soon in 2014.

As we close out the year with users in over 200 countries, here’s wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season.  May we all celebrate worldwide the exchange of giving and receiving together.