This week i’m away from work, skiing in Finland, so instead of the usual fare, i present a five part series on ‘the rebirth of knowledge’. It’s a light hearted look at how our relationship with knowledge is changing: from something that we need to know, to something that we just know how to find out. Today: truth.
A lengthy discussion the other day on the nature of truth: can you ever really prove anything? Well, today i certainly proved that i can’t type when my fingers are cold, which kind of bought me down to earth with a bump. We spend so much time in pursuit of knowledge that it feels as though it must have some intrinsic value, but the value of that knowledge lies in what we do with it, the stories we tell, the actions we take, in what we make of it and with it.
I am quite happy that abstract knowledge may be worthwhile: that it’s fine to just learn things for the sake of learning them. I am guilty of this more than most, with a fine assortment of trivia cluttering up neural pathways with knowledge about windmills, walnut trees and tarmac that may otherwise be used to remember valuable things, such as submitting a tax return on time or knowing how to use the dishwasher. But in organisational learning, in the things we do at work, the nature of our relationship with knowledge is changing.
It’s less about what you know, more about how good you are at finding things out, how good you are at synthesising new meaning from those diverse bits of knowledge. The agile worker is the one who can find the truth from multiple, sometimes conflicting sources. And the person who can forge this ‘truth’ into a new, coherent story. Be that person and your value increases tenfold. The ability to tease meaning out of knowledge, to find the truth, or rather, to find a truth, is valuable. The ability to see through the clutter, to find the story underneath, that has value and makes you valuable.
Maybe ‘truth’ is absolute, or maybe always subjective: the thing i know for sure is that there is value in the skills of investigating, of hunting it down. We used to hail knowledge as the goal, but now it’s about what you can do with it. What stories can you tell.