Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making a Shift from 'Know What' to 'Know How'

Source: Stocksnap Photographer:
In my previous blog post, I shared some of my thoughts on how to avoid the death valley in workplace learning. One of the key ideas was to step away from the know what mindset and focus on the know how and know who mindset as a way to design impactful learning experiences. 

So, what's the difference between know what and know how?

The ancient Greek philosophers had one word, epistêmê, that is usually translated as knowledge and another, technê, often translated as craft or art. This distinction, it might be thought, maps roughly onto the distinction between knowledge-that and knowledge-how, respectively.

Gilbert Ryle (1946) described a contemporary version of these two ideas when he distinguished between knowing that and knowing how.
"Effective possession of a piece of knowledge-that involves knowing how to use that knowledge, when required, for the solution of other theoretical or practical problems. There is a distinction between the museum-possession and the workshop-possession of knowledge. A silly person can be stocked with information, yet never know how to answer particular questions. (p. 16)"

All education and progress is a combination of know what and know how. But traditional models and methodologies have focused far too much on the know what mindset in trying to develop a body of knowledge composed of facts and information. Although know what is important, it is not the ultimate goal.  The way I see it: 

"Know what is to training what know how is to learning and performance." - Click to Tweet

We know how to swim by swimming not simply by knowing what is swimming or why we stay afloat while swimming. If we teach participants about swimming and create a multiple-choice assessment on swimming and the participants 'pass' the assessment, can they swim? The answer is an obvious no.

Learning is not something we get from others; it is something we do. Yet we continue to create and deliver 'training' using instructional methods that are meant for building a knowledge base or know what but are not suited for developing the know how. Know how is created by a process of "learning-by-doing" (Arrow, 1962; Dutton and Thomas, 1985; Argote and Epple, 1990). So, it is time that we focus more on this experiential aspect of learning and design learning experiences that focus on the doing. This can be facilitated by integrating learning and work, by working out loud and by sharing our work with the right network of people (know who).    

I once read somewhere, "The only certainty about the future is that it doesn't resemble the past." This statement cannot be more true when it comes to the learning and employment needs in the future. As the boundaries between humans and machines blur, the jobs of tomorrow won't be the same as today. Many jobs will change and many more will disappear. The World Economic Forum has produced a report that predicts what the employment landscape will look like in 2020. The top 10 skills in 2020 will be:

-Complex problem saving
-Critical thinking
-People management
-Coordinating with others
-Emotional intelligence
-Judgment and decision-making
-Service orientation
-Cognitive flexibility

Just reviewing this list on the face value is a good indication of the demand for know what vs. know how. The present but most definitely the future is not about what information we have. Rather it is about connecting with people who might have the information we need and more importantly using and applying information and knowledge to solve problems. 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” ― Leonardo da Vinci