If knowledge isn’t power then, then?

There was a time when knowledge was, in many cases the value that people offered. Knowledge lived in people’s brains, it was passed from person to person by storytelling and conversations. It was written down in books, it lived on pieces of paper, in museums, libraries, galleries and well buildings generally I guess.

There was a time when you’d ask people questions in order to gain information, where some people might know a lot about languages, or history, or geography. Maybe they’d studied these things at university or had a particular interest in archaeology or stamps or philosophy. People would stand on street corners and preach, sharing this knowledge to others, who in turn would share it with their 'networks'. For most of humanity this was the way that the majority of us acquired knowledge.

The “in the grand scheme of things still very new” internet has changed all that.

People still meet, talk and exchange information. But what they don’t do is wonder, wish, hope, search, strive, scramble or hunt for answers. What they do instead is ask questions to their mobile phones, they *insert search engine* it. No matter which way you cut it if you are puzzling over, say, the etymology of the word ‘mischief’ (as we were yesterday) you simply *insert search engine* it.

“Late Middle English (denoting misfortune or distress): from Old French meschief, from the verb meschever, from mes- ‘adversely’ + chever ‘come to an end’.” Crucially not "a bad chief" as was suggested....

So what is the value that you can bring if it isn’t just raw knowledge?

Well I think we can all agree that there are lots of skills you can bring to roles that aren’t pure knowledge, loads in fact. You might be an amazing negotiator for example. It might be persuading, motivating, listening, presenting, interpreting, solving, explaining, training, inspiring, quizzing, puzzling, finishing, caring etc etc all of these are qualities or skills that people want in their organisation.

The point is that whilst there’s lots of things people look for and lots that people can bring to roles there are new skills that are starting to become more and more sought out. As the ability to store information dwindles in importance skills like the below are coming to the fore.

A couple of examples:

Filtering – when there is this much information this accessible almost 100% of the time (lifts are a half decent example of when it’s not) the ability to filter through it and select the right information is key. Filtering to find information that is the right balance of accurate, relevant, trustworthy and well-articulated is a real skill that people actively talk about when recruiting. As we all know the vast majority of what exists online is not relevant to you, a lot of it’s not relevant to anyone(!) but crucially there are little bits of it that are. Being able to find them, and know why ‘this’ is more relevant than ‘that’ is essential.

Translating – not from language to language, but from online to off and offline to on. I very nearly called this “understanding” but it’s more than that. Understanding is, however a very important part of this. Being able to grasp a complex piece of technology, or the architecture of a system, the way a product flows from creation to purchase, the way a payment is processed, the different channels a business uses to go to market is essential. But that’s not translating, that’s understanding. The key thing is being able to explain to others, that’s the magic. If you can grasp 'it', then explain 'it' so someone else understands it, then that, that is one of the most important skills in business today.

I firmly believe that the internet has changed the way we go about our business and lives entirely and permanently. However I don’t believe that it’s done anything except mean we have to learn new skills, tricks and methods for building, breaking, selling, talking, searching, creating, negotiating, inspiring, amazing, testing and everything else we do day to day. 

Knowledge isn’t power anymore, I’d argue that almost everything else is. 

Until next week