I was having a spirited debate this week with a social media consultant who was extolling the alleged value of passing numerous blogs and “factoids” to my clients and business associates each day. They will keep you in mind that way, she implored. No, was my retort; they will tune out. I much prefer to say less and have something worthwhile to say when I do. That—quality, not quantity—is what I trust will keep me in their minds.
You can’t rise above the din by yelling louder. We are rather hopelessly mired in a muddle of our own making. We are pulled down every day by the sheer fury of data and information streaming in front of us, and we convince ourselves that our capacity to give fleeting notice to all of this is some evidence that we are connected or informed. In my more than three decades as a coach focused on communications, I have a fairly simple definition around those categories of “communications.”
Data is what it is — data. Bits. That’s all. Raw material.
Information is data organized into a form where it becomes useful, actionable or illuminating. Call it insightful.
Knowledge is information applied to experience. Call it practical.
Wisdom is knowledge applied over time or in a broader context. Call it seasoned knowledge.
The fact is, for data we forsake information; for information we forsake knowledge; for knowledge we forsake wisdom. Data and information command our attention but leave little of value in their wake (“tastes great, less filling”). Knowledge and, especially, wisdom, take time and effort, but they are investments that offer manifold payoff. As a leader, are you awash in data and information, or are you consciously seeking to push your attention to the higher order of knowledge and wisdom? Anyone can absorb and process data and information; it takes a leader to mine all of that for knowledge and wisdom.