The Wise Path/Knowing

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—Combining Facts, Drawing Conclusions

Being There

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Knowing is the ability to weave facts together to describe and comprehend a coherent system. Facts are considered in context, combined, and integrated to provide new insight. A key skill is systems thinking—analyzing interconnections among elements (parts, components) making up the whole. This provides the ability to know something thoroughly and to perceive its relationships to certain other ideas, facts, and concepts. Knowing allows conclusions to be reliably drawn. Knowing gathers facts and puts them to work solving problems.

Knowing is the ability to weave facts together to describe and comprehend a coherent system.

The ability to integrate information and “connect the dots” to get a larger and consistent understanding of the world becomes important. You gain confidence that the system model is correctly structured and integrated when it remains consistent as you drill down to examine more detail and frame up to consider a larger scope and variety of reference frames and dynamics. Falsehoods and fallacies become easier to detect and reject. Inconsistencies become apparent and careful investigation begins to reveal larger and more durable truths about our fascinating world. We are better able to assimilate diversity, learn from ambiguity, suspend judgment, and become comfortable with complexity. These skills allow us to integrate factual information with our own investigations, knowledge base, and world view as we begin to truly know the world for ourselves.

In addition, a sense of justice begins to mature. Knowing people think more clearly about fairness and equity and perhaps as a result they readily fulfill duties as family members, team members, organization members, and citizens. Knowing people naturally demonstrate their leadership.

Knowing people are skillful researchers and critical thinkers who focus on interconnections by exploring mysteries, investigating loose ends, and solving problems. They are literate, well read, analytically skillful, practically experienced, inquisitive, ingenious, original, and creative. They readily spot inconsistencies and investigate to resolve them. They are always trustworthy and candid. They rely on a wide variety of reliable sources to rigorously verify information. They are both street smart and book smart. They know the limits of evidence, the rules logic, and they identify and resolve logical fallacies. They follow threads, close loops, and investigate and resolve factual discrepancies. They understand cause and effect. They combine formal education with self-study and life experiences to learn throughout their lives, think for themselves, and make original contributions. Investigating mysteries and solving problems is fun for people who know.

Getting There

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Learning from the following resources and conscientiously practicing the skills they describe will help you move from the Factually Informed to the Knowing level.

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  • Improve your creative thinking skills:
  • Improve your systems thinking skills:
    • Dialogue—Thinking Together
    • Exploring, interviewing, investigating, grazing—Assembling what is and is not known. Understanding the users—the people using the system and facing the problems—and stakeholders—people who are involved with or affected by the problem or its solution.
    • Problem SeekingDiscovering what is desired—What is the problem, what is the real problem, what is the problem really?
    • Discernment—Distinguishing and differentiating important distinctions, dismissing unimportant differences. Recognizing constraints, degrees of freedom, and opportunities. Dismissing misinformation. Seeking the essence. Valuing simplicity while dismissing the simplistic.
    • Generating alternativesInnovation creates opportunity—What else could we do? How else can we approach this? What are we not thinking of? Who else can we talk to? How can technology help?
    • Evaluating alternatives—What is “best”? How would we know? What reference frame is most helpful?
    • Analysis—Digging deeper, examining data, discovering linkages, recognizing patterns, using the tools, drawing conclusions
    • Synthesis—Constructing a coherent system. Leveraging Linkages. Framing up, solving the whole problem.
    • Specification—Constraining the essential, freeing the unimportant.
    • Evaluation, Judgment, Balance—Recognizing elegance: As simple as possible and no simpler.
    • Communication—State precisely what you mean. Reduce Ambiguity. Good writing is clear thinking made visible.
  • Study these systems thinking resources:
  • Increase your knowledge in pertinent domains:
    • Increase your mastery of competencies required for your vocations and avocations.
  • Always be trustworthy.
  • Always speak with candor and respect.
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Learning from these books will help you to Know:

  • Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows
  • Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is, by Donald C. Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg
  • Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design, by Donald C. Gause
  • A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger von Oech
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques, by Michael Michalko
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, by Peter Senge

Moving On

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Practice Knowing as you work toward Understanding.


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This table links to the states that neighbor this one. This can help orient you to this state both horizontally, showing the action and emotion states at this level of development, and vertically showing the cognition levels before and after this one.

Courage Knowing Emotionally Talented
Factually Informed


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  • “You cannot do only one thing.” ~ Garrett Hardin
  • “To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” ~ Nicholas Copernicus