Many people confuse know-what with know-how. If I asked you if you know what a buffalo looks like, you would probably say yes. But if I asked you to draw one, you wonder whether buffalos have long hair, how many horns they have, if they have long legs, and how tall they are.
In today’s society, people tend to know about many things but their knowledge is quite shallow. This is because people are different: some are extroverts, some are introverts. You tend to think extroverts know more because they show it more easily.
Just because one person knows all the new features in the latest framework, it doesn’t mean he knows anything of value when it comes to realization. When we interview people for new positions, they tend to know everything that’s new, but when we ask them how they work with technology and how that technology differs from earlier technologies, you soon wonder if they really know things or just almost know things. They are either very vague or clear in their answers.
In a knowledge-based economy, the core value in creating activity is to use information and to combine it with knowledge produce something more valuable. For example, developing software is justified because the value that comes from the system is more valuable than the cost of producing it. There is no clear definition of what knowledge is or how it’s obtained. Knowledge is a much broader concept than information. To analyze knowledge, a distinction must be made between different kinds of knowledge.
Know-what is about knowing facts. Example are: who is the prime minister of India? Which team won the Stanley Cup in 2006? These kinds of knowledge are easy to obtain simply by “googling” the question. This knowledge is easy to obtain from the Internet. Another example: you can prepare a presentation on Chinese pottery with pictures in less than an hour. In some complex areas, workers must have a lot of this kind of knowledge in order to do their jobs. Lawyers and physicians need to learn many facts for them to be successful.
Know-why knowledge refers to principles and laws of nature. It is the kind of knowledge that underlies technological development and is sometimes referred to as scientific knowledge.
Know-how knowledge is about skills and the capability to do something. This kind of knowledge has more to do with personal competence; for example, a businessman who judges market prospects for a new product, or a personnel manager who selects and trains new staff. This knowledge takes time to obtain and master. You need to practice and get coached; you also have to leave your comfort zone to develop your know-how.
Know-who involves information about who knows what and who knows how to do it. It involves the formation of special relationships, making it possible to get access to domain experts. Know-who is often the knowledge of the internal structure of an organization, network, or a specific industrial domain. In the knowledge economy, it is all about your personal network.
Learning these four kinds of knowledge takes place through different channels. The Know-What and Know-Why are obtained through reading, attending lectures, and checking the Internet. The other two kinds of knowledge are rooted primarily in practical experience.