How often do we use the terms skills and knowledge interchangeably and/or erroneously?
Knowledge is information acquired through our experiences and the use of various sensory inputs. These include reading, watching, listening, touching, smelling. Knowledge refers to degree of familiarity we have with factual information and theoretical concepts.
Knowledge can be transferred from one person to another through training or it can be self acquired through research observation and study.
Skills on the other hand refer to our ability to apply our knowledge to specific situations.
Skills are developed through practise, through a combination of sensory input and output. It is essential, in developing skills to apply knowledge acquired to real world situations.
To make it simple, knowledge is theoretical and skills are its practical application.
Training by itself does not provide skills. For a skill to be realised knowledge must be applied.
In order for individuals to achieve a desired performance at a task they must be provided with opportunities to perform the actions required. Without the opportunity to practise they will not improve.
Much what is actually called training is basically nothing more than an information dump. Good training should be about activities, scenarios, and simulation.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
- The Learner Driver is required to apply their newly acquired knowledge of driving through consistent practise. It is only through an adequate demonstration of their skills that they are allowed to take to the road unaccompanied.
- A newly qualified doctor or surgeon spends many years under supervision practising the knowledge they have acquired through training and learning through continuous experience. Hopefully potential errors being identified by supervisors prior to them being instigated.
- An architect trained in say the use of an Architecture Framework (eg TOGAF, FEAF, etc) should not be regarded as a skilled practitioner until such time as they have applied their knowledge in real world situations and demonstrated real business benefit. A real danger is in saying ‘I have the skills because I am trained’.
- A residential building architect, even when fully qualified still has much to learn. With each structure designed being different and in response to unique client requirements it is their experience that ameliorates the application of their knowledge.
When training is just about lectures, presentations, and quizzes we end up with individuals who know a lot of things but can’t do much with it. They have knowledge but few skills.
Experience is the glue that bridges the gap between Knowledge and Skills.
- Without experience skills can never be developed.
- Without experience new knowledge cannot be developed.
- Without experience skills cannot be improved.
Unfortunately not everyone learns from their experiences. Some individuals are resistant to change. If an experience is negative then ‘there must be something else that is wrong’ Knowledge can be grown through appreciating the experiences for what they are. Many, though not appreciating their experiences are destined to make the same mistakes over and over.
Experiences, if acknowledged, will augment skills already acquired.
With experience (both good and bad) comes the knowledge of which of a variety of tools are best used in a given situation. It is only experience and the application of appropriate knowledge that allows skills to be fully developed and utilised.