Monday, 26 August 2013

Knowledge is an absolute good

I have just been listening to Ken Jennings, he of Jeopardy fame (and who was beaten by IBM's "Watson" super-computer), talk about knowledge on TED today.

He related the story of Tilly Smith, whose geography knowledge and act of leadership saved all those people in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami on Maikhao Beach in Phuket, Thailand. I use Tilly's example in my Leadership classes, to illustrate acts of leadership, following on from Phil Dourado's work.

Ken used Tilly's story to point out that knowing things, and that creating a real sense of connection between your knowledge and those around us can save us both time and effort. And, although he didn't say this, it can sometimes save your life.

Ken said that "knowledge is an absolute good" (citing Sterling, 1998, p. 89). Academics assume that the pursuit of acquiring knowledge is a worthy end in itself, but it can be difficult to determine honestly whether all applications of knowledge are also worthy.

We live in a time when it is easy to look things up. But actually knowing things, and the connection between things, is often not something that we can shortcut.

We still have to remember to learn; and that acquisition is power. Not an iPhone ap. Yet.

  • Dourado, Phil (2007). The 60 Second Leader: Everything you need to know about leadership, in 60 second bites. UK: Capstone Publishing Ltd
  • Jennings, Ken (5 April 2013). Ken Jennings: Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all. YouTube. Retrieved 26 August, 2013 from 
  • Sterling, Bruce (1998). Distraction. USA: Bantam. In full "Knowledge is an absolute good. The search for truth is vital. It's central to civilization. You need knowledge even when your economy and government are absolutely shot to hell."

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