The “cost” of knowledge

“Wisdom cam be shattered by too much information.  Great scholars, for instance, tend to be great in very narrow disciplines.  These scholars give ground on colloquial information so that they can digest more within their field.  In many ways, we are all idiot savants; our expertise in certain areas necessitates weakness elsewhere.” Jeff Stibel

As someone who prides themselves on inadvertently pursuing a career as a “generalist”, I took exception with Stibel’s statement…at first.  Then I happened upon Russell Ackoff’s chart below that provides insights into the discussion of differences in information/knowledge/wisdom.

The more I tried to reconcile these two points of few, the clearer the answer became.  Ackoff’s chart suggests that the more you see the connections & understand the underlying principles, the more likely you are to develop “wisdom”.  It is this ability to connect the dots that systems thinkers pursue as their discipline.  System thinkers tend to be more concerned about the connections of knowledge than the actual knowledge itself.  It is more about the wisdom of knowledge and not the wisdom from knowledge.

I think Peter Drucker’s statement regarding how truly similar organizations are at their core has application in this discussion as well.

“…Whether you manage a software company or a bank or a hospital, the differences apply to 10% of your work.  That 10% is determined by mission, culture, history, etc.  The rest is pretty much interchangeable.”

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Filed under Systems Thinking, Thinking about thinking

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