Russ Ackoff, Prof. Emeritus at Wharton used to say: An ounce of information is worth a pound of data, an ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information, an ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge, and an ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of understanding. In the past, knowledge was power. Things moved slower, the world was less interdependent, problems were more manageable. People with proprietary and hard-to-access knowledge knew how to convert that knowledge into value for themselves and value for others.
Knowledge remains vital - but it is no longer power. The world has an abundance of knowledge, and it is ubiquitous. Knowledge is table stakes. If you are a plumber, a teacher, a dentist, an engineer, an accountant, your knowledge base is essential, and your talent in bringing to bear all that knowledge sets you apart from others who have the same knowledge but not the same overall talent.
For complex challenges, like growing faster, merging, digitizing, stemming an epidemic, reforming health care, transforming, knowledge is an essential ingredient, but not the meal (see Cracking Complexity for many more examples). If all you required to double your company’s growth rate was knowledge for how to do so - and that knowledge actually existed - you’d have doubled it long ago. If all we needed was knowledge for how to stem the opioid epidemic, or improve behavioral health outcomes, or achieve the full benefits of a merger, or make the most of a joint venture, those and all manner of complex challenges would be mastered regularly and routinely.
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