Let’s dance

“Knowledge is Power” was my junior high school’s motto prominently displayed in large Old English script. Mr. Lahovski, my English teacher, loved to tell us he made that up.

(Or at least had suggested the old maxim for the motto. But still we rolled our eyes.)

He liked to try to impress us with his store of Knowledge—Knowledge with a capital Old English-style K!  And here is the kind of quiz he used to give: (But first, his instructions: “Use only a No. 2 pencil. Do not make any stray marks on the test paper. Do not start until told to do so. You may start…  now.”)

“What manufactured item is expanding more than twenty times faster than any other product on the planet? And has been increasing at the rate of greater than 150 percent per year for many decades?”

               A. Knowledge    B. Ignorance       C. both A and B     D. neither A nor B

Today, the fastest growing thing in the world is information (as calculated by Google’s economist Hal Varian), which paradoxically drives both knowledge and ignorance. Technological wonders like the Hubble telescope and the electron microscope have not only expanded what we know, but also what we don’t know, since each new discovery breeds at least two more questions.

So while our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our ignorance is expanding exponentially faster—which means that the widening gap between the two exponential curves, as my math teacher, Mr. Garland, would point out, is itself an exponential curve!

Fascinating bit of data there. But what does it have to do with my job performance? And how do I use it to expand my leadership impact? (See! One discovery generates two questions!)

Well, back at the junior high dances, where we timidly eyed the desires of our hearts from opposite sides of the gym, (stay with me now…) many of us discovered infatuation for the first time.  It’s that kind of passion we need to rekindle in order to cha-cha our careers to the next level.

Yes: we should be constantly on the make for new information! Only by committing to a loving relationship with learning will we ever jam across that great divide to generate prolific results together.

So here with hungry eyes, are six cool moves to capture the magic in a manner that increases your value and influence in the marketplace (while looking good, too!):

          1. Data. Start the relationship as a pursuer of simple facts. These dainties may be wallflowers, and reluctant to show themselves, but they’re powerfully seductive in their elemental forms. Use all your persuasive charm to seek and win Data.

          2. Information. Entice Data’s chaperones of Context and Perspective along for the adventure. Together, they make pure Information: a tantalizing cocktail of thrilling potential. Drink deeply!

          3. Knowledge. Introduce Information to Responsible Action to manufacture Knowledge: Now you’ve got a great relationship and a marketable product!

          4. Understanding.  Seduce Knowledge into an affair with Experience to produce Understanding.

          5. Wisdom. Acquaint Understanding with Truth and Common Sense to create a brain trust of Wisdom.

          6. Discernment. Enlist Wisdom to distinguish differences between stores of knowledge for Discernment: the supreme level of astute information management—and the mature offspring of the love relationship with learning.

And the lively tango never ceases! As savvy leaders and learners, we become skillful managers of our information (and ignorance!) to influence changes for improvements. And as our influence grows, so does our responsibility to discern and apply its practical power in people’s lives.

Huh! Mr. Lahovski was right: Knowledge (and its practical applications) is power! (And for the record, the correct answer is B. According to Google, Answer A is growing at a mere 66 percent per year.)

MasterPoint: Love learning to lead in discerning.