“The Trap of Shallow Skills”: Why Do We Confuse Information with Skill? 

“The Trap of Shallow Skills”: Why Do We Confuse Information with Skill? 

June 6, 2024 IPI 0

Over 15 years of experience of Infinity Power International in the field of management and communication shows that “Leadership is a call to action for the benefit of others”. High-level leadership is a certain philosophy in which the development of individuals is as crucial as the results and goals achieved by the organization. We’ve observed numerous cases where higher results stemmed from the development of employees’ and managers’ knowledge and skills. “The strategy and all the objectives of the company are realized by people. They are the ones who design and utilize technologies, build the organization and participate in its life. Its longevity depends on who they are, what they do, and how they act”. 

Here, however, arises the question: does information equal knowledge? Not exactly. I have frequently heard managers working on projects say “Yes, I know that”, yet when I asked them to provide an example of how they applied that information, they failed to answer.  

The trap we fall into more and more often is the logical fallacy of “knowing means understanding”. This assumption increasingly affects businesses. It is partly the result of Industry 4.0 and 5.0 and the rapid access and flow of information. It’s an illusion which makes us believe that seeing something on the Internet, reading or talking about it once or twice means we know how to apply that knowledge. But is that really the case? We are subject to many distortions in our way of thinking which make us convinced that we can apply complex information easily and automatically. It turns out, however, that the journey from information to knowledge and then skill is more complicated. 

For better understanding, let’s use the example of “Why, How, What” model of communication. Almost everyone in business is familiar with it or has heard of it. However, after gaining information about the existence of this communication pattern, we can then apply it, and at the same time, gain knowledge about when its application elicits a change in the recipient of the message, and why we should utilize it in a specific way. Next, we need to verify if our message has produced the desired result, i.e., whether we have generated new value, such as changing the behavior or motivating the recipient to perform an action, morally and ethically. If so, we can conclude that we’ve been able to apply the information in a way that gives us specific knowledge about eliciting desired reactions in communication. If not, we need to make a change in the way we communicate so that it leads us to new results. In the next step, to turn the knowledge into an automatic skill, we need to repeat its application several times in a way that allows us to use it automatically. The pattern of transition from information to knowledge and then skill may look like this:  

Information -> Application generating new value (reaction, behavior) -> Conclusions/Feedback -> Reapplication-> Knowledge of the application -> Repeating the application several times – > Automation of the application skill 

It seems obvious that knowing something doesn’t mean understanding and applying it automatically. However, the technological revolution demands immediate, new responses, skills and competencies acquired in a drastically short time. Methods of teaching adults have been shortened to an absolute minimum, and the phrases “quickly” and “ASAP” have become commonplace in business.  

This raises discussion about the quality of education and development of employees and leaders as well as the management of their knowledge.Technology is forcing changes in business processes, but our brains do not change significantly, even in the span of a decade. Consequently, the way we learn remains more or less the same, although the form of presenting information changes. 

It leaves an open question of how the knowledge of employees and leaders actually translates into generating results, i.e., creating new value for both the company and the employees themselves. We have to take into account emotional intelligence and broadly defined soft skills, which will become essential in effective leadership because, as T. Chamorro-Premuzic states, “Today, most of us are less likely to lose our jobs because of artificial intelligence and more likely to overestimate the ways in which we should use AI in our roles, so as to add the greatest value to the organization and to people in various ways”. To achieve this, leaders and people who contribute to the organization need to possess a high levelof emotional intelligence and understanding of the mechanisms of human functioning and communication of difficult solutions. But in today’s difficult times it is above all important to “be human” in your leadership style and work.   

References 

1. Bojar, E. 2010. Przywództwo w zarządzaniu rozwojem lokalnym. 

2. McKinsey & The Company. May, 2024. Talks Talent Podcast

Author Anna Modrzewska
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