It’s seductive to assume that data is really knowledge.

It's seductive, to assume that data is really knowledge.

Dr. W.E. Deming, the father of TQM (Total Quality Management) and the whole Lean movement, once said:

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.

And then Professors Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn, authors of an insightful book that dissects the failures of arguably the largest data organization in the world, the US CIA, rightfully share that “data does not make you smarter” in a Forbes article they contributed:

Without an opinion, you’re just another person with data.

Now that it’s put like this, the lesson is clear: that we need both data, and the brains to interpret the data.

But hold on Coach Takeshi, what do you mean “interpret” the data? There’s more to it, right? Yes indeed:

We move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. And… it’s seductive, to assume that data is really knowledge. Or that information is, indeed, wisdom. Or that knowledge can exist without data. And… how quickly we can forget that wisdom without knowledge, wisdom without any data, is just a hunch.

This is an excerpt from the late Nobel laurate Toni Morrison’s essay collection “The Source of Self-Regard.”

I find Morrison’s quote inspiring because it elegantly captures in one way our purpose as learning professionals (applies to leaders too, if you chose). I believe we are in the business of helping people (including ourselves) become thinkers: critical thinkers, design thinkers, non-linear thinkers, scientific thinkers (as in Kata).

More over, not just rational thinkers, but emotionally intelligent, compassionate thinkers. It’s the importance of wisdom, in the last part of “from data to information to knowledge to wisdom.” And what separates an emotionally intelligent decision maker to an emotional decision maker is the awareness that “wisdom without knowledge, wisdom without any data, is just a hunch.”