Along came "awareness"...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here

About mid way through this prose you will ask "where the hell is he going with this?"... you will have to be patient but we will get there*.

Ok, anyone who knows a German Scientist please raise your hand? Well I do... she is quite brilliant, lovely and is everything that you would expect that comes with having a PhD in geophysics - Intelligent, exact, disciplined, intellectually challenging... wait, did I say exact?

A number of blogs ago, I offered some thoughts as to how the smart phone had done away with the value of having "knowledge for knowledge's sake" (A Samurai and his Smartphone). To this post she offered some comments and I shall quote in part, "...being a smartassy scientist, I have to state here that one should never (really never!) confuse knowledge with information. And in my opinion you are talking here rather about information than about knowledge. It's the access to an almost boundless amount of information that characterizes todays life..."(sic).  She was of course correct and I very much appreciate her thoughts!

In my defence, as lame as it was, I told her that it was "artistic license" on my part, as the root of knowledge is "know" and therefore if you know something it is by extension knowledge - Deep down though, I said to myself, "damn I should have used the word information". I will be the first to say I feel that I learn from my mistakes, so I have done some "smartphone research" and the definitions of information and knowledge are as follows:

  • Information is that which informs, i.e. that from which knowledge and data can be derived 
  • Knowledge is an understanding of someone or something.

So technically speaking, I should have said the SmartPhone did away with the importance of having information, facts and figures in your head... it's all about knowledge. 

As I worked through this situation of loose language and artistic licence, it got me to thinking that "Knowledge for knowledge's sake" might as well be brought into question. What about that old saying, "You don't know what you don't know" - How do you know that you don't have knowledge? How can you gather information to build the knowledge that you may not be aware of in the first place?

And so along comes awareness - 

  • Awareness is knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

The magic word for me in the definition of awareness is the word "exists". It is the understanding that something exists that leads to gathering the information that "knowledge" can be developed from.  Awareness, knowledge and information... the triad is complete and the world is now a better place. With "awareness" thrown into the semantical mix I feel a little obliged to discuss it somewhat. (I know... it's just getting better isn't it?)

When looking at these three words I think it's fair to say that the importance of information, although the building blocks of knowledge, has been minimized with the advent of the internet and that the focus really lies with knowledge and awareness. So what's more important to have? The ideal answer is to say both, but in the real world it is of course, "it depends". Like almost everything, it depends on context; awareness may be more important in one situation and knowledge in another... and remember knowledge can be acquired from awareness given enough time. In a practical sense you want knowledge when you need to "do something" and awareness when you want to "determine what to do". Awareness leads to better understanding of a situation, as well as solution and opportunity development whereas Knowledge leads to better execution of plans and ideas. 

Ultimately knowledge is a specialized form of awareness and in a simplistic sense it all starts with being aware. It is here where I smile to myself as the next obvious question is, "where does awareness come from?"  Oh that's easy - Curiosity, And that leads to everything. Curiosity leads to awareness which in turn leads to knowledge. The more of one, leads to the more of another**. 

So be curious***. Be it yourself or within your teams; it leads to broader awareness and ultimately knowledge. Search out the curious, particularly if you need to look at your situation and the world differently. 

I bet you didn't see that coming.


* I will be very surprised if you could have ever guessed we would end up at curiosity.

** I have no data to support the ratios of "curiosity to awareness to knowledge" or aspects of diminishing returns but on a day to day basis it's safe to say if you are curious about something and have a smart phone you almost instantaneously have a working understanding and knowledge.

*** this will be a topic for much further discussion