Schlagwort-Archive: Knowledge

Learning is a completely personal matter

Already in the Politeia Plato formulated „what the ignorant has to suffer duly … is to learn from the knowledgeable“. Basically, it was clear from an early age that learning has to do with personal passion. Only the interested and curious have sufficient tenacity to expand their knowledge beyond the comfort zone. This becomes visible subsequently in their behavioral changes, which become possible through observations, experiences and exercises. Although this has been known for two and a half thousand years, the idea still prevails that one could instill people the desired knowledge. This ignores the fact that, at best, data is transferred. However, some people consider this data as unnecessary noise, when they have no motivation to process the received, initially incomprehensible data. Learning cannot be forced, since it is a completely personal matter.

The learning process takes place exclusively in the mind of each individual in his or her own personal way. Neither information nor knowledge or wisdom can be passed on, since they exist only in the minds of every person – even if artefacts such as books and films give the impression that there is more than just the transmission of data. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the elements of meaning that build on one another.

  • Sign
    The starting points for our contact with the environment are our sensory perceptions, which we absorb via the eyes, ears, body, nose or tongue. The flood of stimuli we are exposed at is unimaginably great. In order not to go crazy, we unconsciously suppress most signals. The remaining signals arouse our attention and become thoughts on a still unknown path that can only be described to a limited extent – except the facts that we are able to encode as data.
  • Data
    We convert this data into messages, which we pass on with our means of expression, e.g. with the help of spoken or written language or music or visualizations or our behavior. The sender encodes its thoughts as well as possible. A popular metaphor is the data processing of a computer – although our brain does not work that way. The computer works with ones and zeros (001000111). Although we measure electronic activities in the head and can assign brain areas to certain mental processes, we do not know yet exactly how our consciousness evolves as a result. The previous describes the transmission of data that can become information in the next step.
  • Information
    The receivers that are able to decode the received data convert the data stream into a number (e.g. 39). Only by linking it with other data it becomes information. As soon as the addressee realizes that the value comes from a thermometer used to measure a person’s temperature, we recognize that someone has a fever. If this is a new fact or an update of an earlier measurement, the data becomes information that requires our attention. Now, medical knowledge is required.
  • Knowledge
    Depending the state of knowledge, certain people, for example medical doctors, can order the application of calf compresses or the administration of an antipyretic based on available knowledge. Such conclusions could be drawn by a computer. The real difference in treatment arises, when wisdom is added.
  • Wisdom
    Over time more and more knowledge accumulates, which leads to wisdom in combination with already existing knowledge. Accordingly, the wise doctor not only observes the thermometer, but has a holistic look on the patient. Upon further examination he discovers an open wound and other symptoms. Based on his experience and his foresighted wisdom, he detects blood poisoning. Now the calf compresses aren’t sufficient.

The shown levels of meaning are often mixed in everyday life. With the assumption that it is information, many think that all levels are easy to transport and communicate. In fact, however, only data can be disseminated. A group of dashes can have a lot of meaning for the sender. For those who do not know the writing or symbolism of a picture, these signs remain incomprehensible – a good example is the Voynich manuscript. Even data often remains closed off – or who understands this?

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Only the data that the sender combines to a message can be transmitted. In the receivers’ head, the data he or she understands becomes information that is linked to other information about the context. In the interaction with existing knowledge, actions are eventually derived. The transition to wisdom is fluent, takes a lot of time and motivation to learn. The knowledge and the linking of different fields of knowledge ultimately lead to extraordinary possibilities.

Bottom line: Information exchange, knowledge transfer, knowledge management, knowledge mediation or Nuremberg funnels with which knowledge is to be disseminated are apparently pragmatic approaches, but often fail due to a lack of willingness to learn. Since only data can be transmitted, it is necessary that the individual makes an effort to convert the data into information, process it into knowledge and at some point has enough experience to speak of wisdom. In communication, the receiver decides on the meaning with its horizon of experience – each person has its own viewpoint and therefore accumulates its own personal insights. For these reasons, learning is a completely personal matter.

The organism – the ideal metaphor for natural order

The original world knowledge was determined by the experiences that humans witnessed in their immediate environment. They were holistic experiences that were not distorted by mental simplifications. Over centuries this perspective was pushed into the background. With the newest insights it appeared that the world is not a machine, a clockwork, but a naturally grown entity that lives by its own, so far hidden rules. Also the economy slowly starts to understand that new approaches are needed. The organism is the ideal metaphor for such a natural order.


The natural order can not be developed, but grows by its own. You can only try to create fertile basic conditions, so that it develops as desired. The following aspects are concerned.

  • Structure
    The organism consists of many, indistinct and strongly exchanging components. This can be cells, organs or other parts of a body. Even if they differ in size, they are on the same level. Biologists or physicians recognize interaction and find starting points to influence. In business similar approaches develop under the heading of Agile organization, Lean management, and subsidiarity. The departure from the actual Taylorism and its breaking down of tasks, authority and responsibility is common to all. Small mobile units, which have full control, are to adapt flexibly to the market requirements. Eventually they adapt like organisms adapt to changing context condition.
  • Format
    An organism grows up and develops over generations special abilities that enable to survive. It uses for this purpose no artificial structures, but interacts spontaneously with its environment. That way also the business areas have to act now. The emphasis goes away from schematic operational sequence, to open, adaptable procedures. Each unit can find and implement its own approach. The cooperation of the enterprise is marked by the fact that all units yearn for a common conception of the future. The exchange of information will create understanding and comprehensibility with the effort of all units that result from the honest needs to communicate and to show interest. Enterprises use words and numbers as information. Organisms use their biochemical messengers.
  • Leadership
    In a flock of birds it is not possible to identify, where the change of direction starts or who it triggers. There seem to be simple, context related rules. In retrospect you can suspect at best, what the triggers might have been. Enterprises, which get involved in such approaches, have difficulties, because they cannot assign the responsibility for the changes. In this context not one, but all provide the triggers and define together the target. Many efforts seem to fall senselessly flat thereby. For today’s bosses this appears like waste. They forget thereby that all involved people learn and cooperate more effectively in the future. A direct steering harms the nature more, than it is useful. In business it sometimes goes against individual interests.
  • Key figures
    The organism shows only few objectively attainable key figures – fever, increased pulse, rapid breathing, and changed metabolism. The remaining indicators are qualitatively – fitness, adaptability, agility, and flexibility. In business are rather less measurable key figures – fluctuation, employee burn-outs, bustle, and degree of workload. Success becomes here visible with the monetary results, after everything is over. Readjusting afterwards is difficult. The early gut feeling is the only thing that you have beforehand. The new economic key figures become more and more similar to those of the organism.
  • Cooperation
    The interaction of an organism can only be shown to a certain extent, since the best description can illustrate only part of the reality. The substantial part remains concealed. And it is clear to everyone that a healthy cooperation makes a body viable. Enterprises that live a really open work culture, receive results in unexpected places. The intrinsic motivation of each participant dynamises meetings. Short work rounds produce increasing value by not wasting the time of others because people are only present for the sake of being part of the meeting. The involved people decide only to join a meeting, if it provides a benefit to them and produces thereby an enormous momentum for all. Exactly, as the organism knows ho to pace its forces, the natural order is following the same principles.
  • Knowledge
    Does the bee swarm know that it is an organism out of many individuals? The bees found their way to share their knowledge. The swarm knows quickly, where the best flowers are to be found. The knowledge exchange takes place quasi automatically. Enterprises with natural order have informal channels that bring quickly the knowledge to the places, where needed. The substantial consequences are that not all know everything and only the really needed information is available. Actually it is perfect to dam the flood of information. The dynamic structure of the organism processes the stimuli even in such a way that over time its structure adapts to the new conditions.

Bottom line: The organism is the ideal metaphor for the natural order, as it is recently introduced in business. The pre-requisites for this open form are the adaptability of growing units, the tolerance for different solutions, the let loose of direct influence by the executives, soft key figures, the ability to co-operate spontaneously and the sharing of the common knowledge without hidden agenda.

The clockwork – the ideal metaphor for technical order

Descartes and the enlightment divided the world into parts as small as possible, in order to examine and understand exactly, how it ticks. This world view is still valid. And until today many people only trust on what they can repeatedly prove. Accordingly enterprises divide work into controllable units. These areas, teams and positions get the tasks, authority and responsibility assigned for a small part of the value chain. Together, all parts represent the whole enterprise – for some people like clockworks. If the smallest part is missing, the clock does not tick any longer. That makes the clockwork an ideal metaphor for technical order.


Human-made structure is based on rules, logic and calculations. The following points clarify this thinking.

  • Structure
    The architecture of a clock is determined by the watchmaker. On various layers the different displays of time, like the respective hours, minutes, seconds, dates or moon phases are implemented through cog wheels of different sizes. The watchmaker recognizes, how it works and in which sequence it can be put apart and be rebuilt by looking at the clockwork.
    In the same way the company consists of different areas. The larger the number of areas, the more layers, groupings and fields exist. Due to the limited number of parts, the most difficult clockwork is easier to get going than an enterprise.
  • Format
    The condition of the cog wheels, the screws and the material determine the quality of the clock. Each part has a purpose. In a company, there are likewise tangible components – e.g. the buildings, the pipes and the machines. Some people even consider the employees as tangible resources. For better grasping the soft aspects of people, they are described with forms that regulate the exchange of information and define a common language. Over time these guidelines shape up to the dense jungle of bureaucracy. The regulations are created, described, published and the application ensured without interruption. The clockwork does not have these soft factors. This makes the clockwork to the ideal description for a flawless enterprise driven by leadership.
  • Leadership
    The small flywheel, the balance wheel, is crucial for the even operation of a clock. Accordingly, it takes people in the enterprise, who take over this role. In a technical order the directions run clearly from top to bottom, from outside to inside. Nothing happens, without the superordinate, super-superordinate approval of the superiors. This creates reliable and smooth operational sequences, but it slows down the flexibility of the employees. They always have to obtain permission initially. As the balance wheel ensures the even running of the clock, the leadership takes care that even with time pressure the corporate procedures run reliably.
  • Key figures
    Well adjusted clocks provide the exact time accurately. Further key figures are the caliber, the energy source or the number of beats per second. Also the technical order uses measurable key figures. The activities have clear measuring points, as long as they are tangible. Thus the decisions can be justified, the employee performance evaluated and different scenarios simulated. With growing digitization also the number of measuring points increases. The new abilities of Big DATA are still able to recognize patterns in the flood of information. Eventually not the quantity is crucial, but the reliability.
  • Collaboration
    The clockwork lives of the immaculate interaction of its parts. As soon as sand slips into the clockwork, it stops. The business cooperation in the technical order is regulated. The farther they are from each other, the rarer are direct contacts. Contrary to the clock, where the cooperation takes place inside, the business depends on informal relations of the employees, who unfold rather outside, in the private environment. Cooperation is made more difficult due to the existence of an area specific, separatist secret language that can hardly or not at all be understood by others. For fans of the technical order the clock represents the ideal state of cooperation.
  • Knowledge
    The wisdom of clockwork consists of its design, the mechanical finesse of its parts as well as, of course, and the time. In the enterprise the knowledge is distributed across all levels and ranges. The superordinate levels have thereby a limited view, while the subordinated levels have a limited operational know-how. The rigid structure limits the available knowledge to what was originally inserted into the organization – learning is for this thinking a wrench in the works.

Bottom line: The clockwork is the ideal metaphor for a technical order, as it coins the economy for centuries. The price for this tangible corporate structure is a large number of layers, an overwhelming bureaucratization, a strictly hierarchical chain of command, easily attainable measuring points, a firmly given cooperation and the insufficient use of knowledge and learning.

Documented cluelessness

A large issue of the information society is the fact that people

  • are not aware what they do know and
  • cannot grasp, what they do not know.

Already in ancient times Socrates, the wise of its time, putted it that way „I know that I know nothing.” Our information-hungry society is propelled by the dilemma to learn a lot and to be obliged to inform oneself constantly. This urge for knowledge leads to permanent information overload that creates nothing else than documented cluelessness.


Our brain is not a hard disk that doubles its storage space and the access speed to stored data every 18 months. Quite the contrary. A Chinese study discovered that our brain is shrinking for the past 10,000 years from 1500 cm3 to 1350 cm3. And our everyday life experience shows that we function differently than a digital data memory. We seem never to be full, therefore

  • we subscribe more newspapers, magazines, on-line offers, than we can process. The paper piles up either in the room or in the garbage;
  • we buy books that become thicker and thicker and ever more rarely read, stuck in the shelves for years waiting for their ’consumption’;
  • we send and receive enormous amounts of emails that overflow our mail box. At the same time we wish to be on more and more mailing lists, in order not to miss anything;
  • the Germans consume on average nearly 4 hours television per day – and remember at best the transmission on the next day, but not the contents;
  • one gets lost when surfing in the Internet.

The documented cluelessness is the information that we have virtually and physically on hold to ensure that we do not miss anything. Who does not have a too large heap of documented cluelessness, as unread articles, books, unseen films, throw the first stone?

The deficit that blocks our access to already known and unknown does not result in an economic use of resources. We do not make anything out of what we already know and continue to untwist the information faucet, in order to perceive, what we think not to know. Eventually we do not feel progress.

The way out of this dead end begins with changing our convictions that drive us.

  • Accepting the own capability
    As soon as we understand that our processing capacity is as good or as bad, as for all others, we can better use the existing resources.
  • We know almost nothing about everything
    There is nobody, who has less cluelessness than we do. Accepting this lack of knowledge, not being afraid of posing questions and making curiosity a virtue reduces the pressure.
  • Preventing that news blow out quickly
    Soaking up news passively leads to fast forgetting. Immediate, active application of new knowledge in discussions and/or the written summary of new insights lead to the fact that it can be better recalled.
  • Using the senses for oneself
    Information is at best remembered, if it enters on the one hand via several sensory channels and on the other hand our preferred sense channel is supplied. Who knows, with which sense channel he/she learns best – visually, auditory, kinesthetically?

Bottom line: The fatal is the missing awareness of the existing knowledge and the invisibility of the unknown. This deficiency cannot be overcome with efforts but by coming loose the documented knowledge and by using the existing always more actively. It functions well, if we change our convictions, as mentioned above, so that the need for more and more documented cluelessness dissolves.

Distributed leadership shares knowledge

The right decision needs the right understanding of the situation at the right time. Executives secured their claim to power for a long time based on the maxim „Knowledge is power “. Since in the past twenty years the Business processes, the IT and the organization were effectively streamlined, further progress can only be carried out by each individual. For this purpose, the employees receive in their role defined tasks, with the necessary authority and, in addition, the responsibility for the results. The prerequisite for this form of distributed leadership is openness through sharing the existing knowledge.


In order to facilitate the decision making for the employees and in the interest of the joint goals, the access to the following information has to be guaranteed.

  • The context of the enterprise needs the overview of the corporate sites (incl. contact partners and local information of all kinds), the description of the market (incl. understandable market indicators and news) as well as the important internal and external stakeholders (e.g. suppliers, partners, and customers).
  • The products and services, competencies and processes that define essentially the business build together the strategic core. Thus, the employees can align their doing more easily to the value-adding functions.
  • The strategic and operational goals as well as key figures (incl. historical revenue and sales data, successes and difficulties, HR evaluation criterions) are the pre-requisites for a coordinated, successful goal achievement.
  • The description of the values, the rules and the escalation procedures shape the corporate culture.
  • The barrier-free access to all other databases (e.g. projects, products, procedures) avoids disturbing delays and reduces wasteful friction losses.

Bottom line: Enterprises cannot afford any longer to concede individuals any kind of knowledge lead. All have to be in the position to decide at any time that it is favorable for the enterprise as a whole. One of the most important pre-requisites is the equal access to ALL information. The only exception is information that is classified as secret.