posted 3 Nov 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 2
Thought leader: Knowledge information and process
Is there any alternative to knowledge as we understand it? Something that boasts dynamic and changing fundamental patterns, or shifts those patterns in some new way?
Over the past few years we’ve come to appreciate the simple beauty of acknowledging knowledge as the capacity (potential or actual) to take effective action in varied and uncertain situations.
Recognising that knowledge is the result of associative patterning in the mind/brain, we choose to consider knowledge as composed of two parts: knowledge (informing) and knowledge (proceeding). KnI is the information part of knowledge, and it represents the insights, meaning, understanding, expectations, theories and principles that support or lead to effective action. When viewed separately this is information that may lead to effective action. KnP represents the process and action part of knowledge. It is the process of selecting and associating the relevant information (KnI) from which specific actions can be identified and implemented.
Further, we now think of types of knowledge needed in terms of surface, shallow and deep, a continuum of increasing KnP. Surface knowledge answers the question of what, when, where and who. It is primarily explicit and represents visible choices that require minimum understanding. Shallow knowledge is when you have information plus some understanding, meaning and sense-making. To make meaning requires context. Deep knowledge builds on the development and integration of understanding and meaning such that an individual can shift their frame of reference as the context and situation shift. This includes pattern thinking, which by its very nature is KnP.
Patterns are relatively stable forms of behaviour of a system that are changing slow enough to be detected. A second-order pattern would be the rate of change or a repeating sequence over time. In a relatively constant environment or when there are consistent patterns of change, the boundaries of patterns can be explored to see what rate they are changing and their influence on foundational patterns.
Researchers at University College London have suggested the way we read and think is changing due to skimming activity, bouncing from one topic to another. Recognising the plasticity of the brain, this new way of thinking is undoubtedly creating new connections, and doesn’t appear to support the reflective process necessary for Kolb’s experiential learning (1984). But what it just may support is pattern thinking.
The unconscious can detect patterns before the conscious mind is aware of them (if we become aware of them at all). This is the KnP that drives healthy intuition.
We can’t help but reflect on the power of Senge’s mental models (1990) developed over time and often hiding in our unconscious. Similarly, the largest amount of pattern thinking occurs in the unconscious, developed through the continuous process of associative patterning as our inner and outer environments co-evolve.
As we get more in touch with our unconscious, is it possible that information skimming will generate super patterns capable of handling the complexity with which we struggle? Throughout evolution the mind/brain has met the physical needs of mankind. Could this be the next cognitive shift in human knowledge and evolution?
Dr Alex Bennet is a principal at the Mountain Quest Institute, West Virginia, US. Website: www.mountainquestinstitute.com; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org