What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Aren’t they the same thing? While some might think so, this is far from the truth. Both knowledge and wisdom are an integral part of life and business but are not interchangeable in every situation. Recognizing the difference will be a huge asset to your life.
Knowledge is defined as facts or information you can get through learning or study. Those with lots of knowledge are often called “book-smart.” Knowledge is an essential element of success, as it’s what gives you the “know-how” of any subject.
Imagine you own a small fruit stand. If you want a successful fruit stand, you’ll need to have some knowledge about fruit. What do each of the fruits you stock taste like? What are their growing seasons, and how much do you need to sell them for to make a profit? This is what knowledge looks like, and it’s essential to a well-stocked fruit stand.
Knowledge absolutely has its place in life and business, but without pairing it with wisdom (more on that later), you might fall flat. If you rely on your knowledge exclusively in a group project, you could overpower other voices in the room. Often an overabundance in knowledge leads to arrogance and the “know-it-all” syndrome that can irk fellow coworkers and managers.
Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge and can’t be taught in a book or a school. It’s the culmination of life experience in any given area. Wisdom and failure often go together; learning from failure is a sure-fire way to gain wisdom. When paired with knowledge, it creates a well-rounded outlook on business and life.
Remember your fruit stand? Wisdom is knowing that while Honeycrisp apples are the sweetest, your primary customers bake more pies, and therefore favor Granny Smith apples. Additionally, watermelon sells best in the summer, and if you drop prices around holiday weekends, you’ll sell more products. Wisdom is knowing peaches do well when being preserved in jars and suggesting it to a new customer looking to get into canning.
Wisdom is essential in life, but without knowledge, wisdom doesn’t have roots to stand on. Those with all wisdom but no knowledge can come across as vague or full of hot air. Often people who are trying to overcompensate for a lack of knowledge lean heavily into so-called wisdom.
Increasing Both Wisdom and Knowledge
So, the question remains: How do you increase both knowledge and wisdom? They are obviously important in a business and personal setting, so surely you’ll benefit by having more of each, right?
When seeking knowledge, find the holes in your knowledge base and pinpoint your efforts to fill them. Seek reputable sources because, believe it or not, not everything on the internet is true.
Here are a few of our favorite online training sources:
- Harvard University™ has over 100 free courses available to anyone!
- LinkedIn Learning™ is a great paid resource for business skills.
- Pluralsight™ is a wealth of knowledge for so many subjects and periodically offers whole weekends during which they unlock all of the 7,000+ courses in their library.
- HubSpot™ specializes in marketing, sales, and service software and is free!
The pursuit of wisdom looks a little different, as it involves less “book learning” and more “people learning.” Here are a few ways to seek wisdom.
- Find a mentor who can give you their experiences and help you navigate your tricky situations.
- Ask for feedback from your boss or supervisor. Take notes and ask follow-up questions, and then follow their advice!
- Talk to your audience! Go back to the fruit stand … In that scenario you would talk to your customers, ask them what they’re looking for, and ask what they’re using the produce for. This gives you first-hand knowledge of your consumer.
- Look at others who have been doing your job for longer. Pay attention to how they act and react in various situations and model your behavior in similar ways.
- Try things and fail … often. Failure is uncomfortable, but inevitable—and it’s part of the process as you head toward success.
No one is perfect, and nobody has the perfect balance of knowledge and wisdom. Figuring out the difference is a lifelong pursuit that will help you for years to come. Make sure you do frequent self-evaluations to see how you’re doing and make changes to better accommodate your needs.
Now that you have a more thorough understanding of the importance of knowledge and wisdom on your journey to success, read about how developing daily habits can help along your journey to success, too!