Thursday, September 15, 2016

Theoretical Knowledge


Theoretical Knowledge
Multiple Responses:
The Value of Theoretical And Practical Knowledge
Before anything else let me make it clear that I think knowledge is incredibly important to any career and life in general. In the signature to my email I add a line from a Bob Dylan song. Brownie points if you know the song.

He not busy being born is busy dying.

I use the quote as a reminder to always be learning something new and always striving to grow. The moment you stop doing either is the moment you stop being.
Albert Einstein

Theory vs. Practical
When it comes to knowledge there are different kinds of knowledge and different ways of acquiring each kind. On one side is theory and on the other side is the practical application of theory. Both types of knowledge are important and both make you better at whatever you do.

I think those who advance the furthest in life tend to be those who acquire knowledge at both ends of the spectrum and acquire it in a variety of ways.

Theoretical knowledge — teaches the why. It helps you understand why one technique works where another fails. It shows you the whole forest, builds the context, and helps you set strategy. Where self education is concerned theory prepares you to set a direction for your future education. Theory teaches you through the experience of others.

Theoretical knowledge can often lead to a deeper understand of a concept through seeing it in context of a greater whole and understanding the why behind it..

Practical knowledge — helps you acquire the specific techniques that become the tools of your trade. It sits much closer to your actual day-to-day work. There are some things you can only learn through doing and experiencing. Where theory is often taught in the ideal of a vacuum, the practical is learned through the reality of life.

Practical knowledge can often lead to a deeper understanding of a concept through the act of doing and personal experience.

Both of the above are important. You won’t survive in any career unless you can bring results and to do that you need practical knowledge. There’s no avoiding it.

At the same time learning how to solve a specific problem only teaches you how to solve that same problem again. Practice can only take you so far. Theory helps you apply what you learned solving one problem to different problems.

University of Colorado at Boulder

Formal Education vs Self Learning
Formal education tends to lean toward the theory side of the spectrum and teaching things to yourself tends to lean toward the practical. You can learn both through either method, but each tends to give you a little more of one over the other.

The key to getting all of the knowledge you need is to understand that whichever route you’ve chosen you’ve probably gained a lot more of one side of the knowledge equation and need to spend some time acquiring knowledge from the other end to balance your education.

If you go the 4 year degree route realize that many people in the work force can already perform the specifics of your job better than you can. It’s up to you to put in the time gaining the practical experience you need to complement the theory you learned. While in school don’t pass on opportunities to gain the practical. Apply for that internship. Try to get a summer job in your chosen profession no matter what the specific job.

If you skip school and go straight to the workforce, understand that you need to acquire the big picture view of what you’re doing. Grab some books on the fundamentals. Audit courses at nearby colleges. Set a more formal path for your own education beyond the day to day. Be more active in understanding why different techniques work as they do. Devote some time to studying themes in your craft.

In the middle is the online education. Its formality offers a chance to learn theory, yet many online courses aim to get you into the workforce as soon as possible. They may not excel at either end, but they do offer you the balance in the middle.
Georgetown Diploma

Is That Piece of Paper Worth It?
The question above really depends on your specific goals and the path you plan on taking through your career. If your plan is to go into business for yourself then no, the paper that certifies you earned a degree is meaningless. I can tell you that none of my clients have ever asked to see my degrees.

Then again if my business was in an office that clients physically visited, I bet hanging a degree from a prestigious university behind me would help close deals.

If you plan on working for someone else the degree takes on more importance and the the larger the entity you want to work for the greater the importance of that degree. When you’re beginning your career you have no experience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 18, 22, or 50. You start without experience like everyone else.

Without experience it can be hard to find a job. That piece of paper with the degree on it, isn’t experience, but it’s a recommendation from a trusted source that says you have the framework in place to gain the practical experience. The degree tells others you have a strong foundation on which to build.
Thomas Edison

As I’ve said throughout this post and everywhere else I’ve ever talked about this topic, the education you get is more important than where you get that education. You can easily find examples of people who did and didn’t go to school who went on to great success. You can equally find examples of people who did and didn’t go to school who ended up as great failures.

There is a theoretical side and a practical side to knowledge and both are valuable. The true masters of any craft or discipline understand both ends of the spectrum. They put in the hours to acquire the practical techniques while also putting in the time to understand how those techniques fit into a larger context and tradition and why they work.

Whether or not you go to school or jump directly into the workforce is a personal decision that’s based on a variety of factors. Do you need to start earning a living right away? How do you best learn? Will you be able to pick up the theory and context on your own? Do you need more time gaining the practical experience?

Only you can answer those questions and only you can determine which is the better path to start out on. However, focusing only on one side while ignoring the other will limit you in ways you may never even realize.

Theoretical knowledge vs practical skills
12 May, 2010
Two words that describe a person's competence are, knowledge and skills. Knowledge refers to learning concepts, principles and information regarding a particular subject(s) by a person through books, media, encyclopedias, academic institutions and other sources.

A skill refers to the ability of using that information and applying it in a context. But, which is more important, Theoretical Knowledge or Practical Skills? It is a question that has been discussed frequently.

"The obvious sources to increase one's knowledge are through reading books and through practical experience", says Sanjiv Kumar, Vice President & Group Head, HR, People Group.

"It's important to realise that in the workplace, what matters is not the amount of practical experience or theoretical background that an individual has. What matters is how much an individual is able to effectively deal with the realities around him. Theory and practical experience are just complementary means to that end."
Rohtas Goel, CMD, Omaxe Ltd explains, "Both practical and theoretical experiences go hand in hand and each has their own significance. At every level, in an organisation, where theoretical experience helps the individual to comprehend the basic notions, practical knowledge enables them to execute plans and strategies in the most effective manner."

A large number of companies in India are imparting practical training to job seekers as well as the existing employees. In Real Estate sector, Goel stresses the necessity for professionals like architects, strategists, urban planners and civil engineers to undergo specific training program to further refine their skills.

"Also, a focused approach for advertising, finance and marketing people would enable them to achieve goals in less time," he adds.

Few companies are very much concerned about the overall development. They have rigorous employee orientation programs, seminars & workshops for nurturing the talent. Some companies have the perception that the employees will learn to swim if he/she is thrown in the ocean. So they directly deploy the employees on the battlefield.

Jagdeep Shetty, HR head, Courtyard Marriott describes, "We give lot of emphasis on developing the industrial trainees, as they are the ones who would join us after passing out from the college. The objective is to create an experience for them through practical training, as they try to implement their theoretical learning in day to day operation. The fresher who joins the company gets practical cross, exposure training in other operations as part of the induction program."

The biggest disadvantage for a job seeker is either a lack of work experience/practical training or no work experience at all.

Anshul Dureja, President, Corporate Operations & Chief Green Officer, Greenply gives thumbs up to theoretical knowledge. "When companies go for on-campus/off-campus recruitments, they often look for multiple attributes, one of the major ones being strong theoretical concepts. Few of the other contributors, are your behavioural attitude, passion and intent. These all and some more contribute to enter into the corporate world without the practical experience," says Dureja.

"We rely on the Hotel management students, but when we hire a candidate the things that really matters is the attitude and how flexible he/she will be while performing the job. We hired an associate who are non, hotel background. We hired a driver for the waiter's position and who has now become an executive," adds Shetty.

Practical training is beneficial to both the employer as well as employee and it enables the latter to cope up with the work pressure in a better way.

The employer gets the skills which is the most important attribute of professionals, and helps it to use that for the growth of the Organisation and achieve its vision and mission. The employee benefits from gaining learning which helps in the overall grooming and development within the framework of an organisation.

Anshul Dureja clarifies about work pressure that need not be job related always; it could be the environment too in which a particular work gets carried which may also be resulting in a work pressure.

The practical training has two paradigms, one the job skill and second the culture of the organisation including the various cross functional roles. It definitely helps a lot in enabling employees understand the situations much better.

Ultimately, both theoretical knowledge and practical skills are required to master a field. Knowledge can be learnt whereas skills require practical exposure and can also be in-born. From a philosophical perspective, knowledge is intangible but skills can be made tangible by applying those skills to a context and getting the desired result.

Shetty avers, "It's good to have theoretical knowledge but, if you don't apply it in your day to day practice, the knowledge is waste."

In a New York Times Op-Ed, David Brooks poses the ultimate higher-ed question: What is a university for?

Brooks separates knowledge into technical knowledge and practical knowledge.

Technical Knowledge enables us to understand a field. These are basics like statistics or fundamentals of biology. You can find it in books. The faculty teaches it. In many cases, a MOOC or a robot could teach it. It’s the mainstay on campus.

Practical Knowledge is about being rather than knowing. It can’t be taught in the classrooms or books. You learn it through experience. You absorb it from your environment. You can pick it up from your communities of practice.

Examples of Practice Knowledge abound in Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, “Lean In.” Says Brooks,

… tasks she describes as being important for anybody who wants to rise in this economy: the ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t.

Brooks would have students master Practical Knowledge by leading the band or joining the debate club, something on campus. I think he’s off. Back to his “What is a university?” For most of us, the answer is “Not the best place to master Practical Knowledge for the workplace.”

What if we think of Technical Knowledge as explicit and Practical Knowledge as tacit?
  • Technical Knowledge lays bare the intricacies of complicated concepts. It’s the facts. It’s clockwork models and the results they gin out time after time. Technical Knowledge deals with certainties and absolutes. In other words, it’s often theoretical and “not found in nature.”
  • Practical Knowledge deals with complex, unpredictable, unruly patterns that emerge in real life. It is nature.

Caveat emptor. This next part is speculation on my part. I’m looking for corroboration.

The world is growing more complex. Outsourcing and automation have eliminated work that is merely complicated. The more interconnections in network, the greater the complexity, and the tendrils of networks everywhere are intertwining at a surreal pace.
informal learning research.374

Things kicked into high gear in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Between 1980 and 2000, the value of the publicly traded companies flip-flopped from 80% tangible assets to 80% intangible assets.

This is an astounding change. Think about it. Most of a company’s worth had been in hard assets: plant, equipment, and cash. Two decades later, most of a company’s worth was in relationships, know-how, and secret sauce — things you can’t even see.

Many managers haven’t seen the light yet. Look at their allegiance to accounting measures that have less and less meaning in the real world. They righteously demand “hard numbers.” Those are the numbers that don’t mean to much any more.
informal learning research3.374

As the world becomes more complex, are we not in the midst of another phase change? Might it be that the university heyday when explicit knowledge was king, is giving way to a new world where skills for navigating complexity rule?

If you can’t increase your social intelligence at college, isn’t it time to go somewhere else to get it?

The Times also reported that Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break. Seems that elite MOOC consortium EdX is experimenting with automated essay grading. Skeptics of course came out of the woodwork. Anant Agarwal, the EdX chief, points out that the grading software begins by learning how professors would grade; then it gives students instant grades and an opportunity to improve.

That latter bit — instant feedback and opportunity to resubmit a stronger essay — has lots of promise.

The skeptics are fighting a pitched battle. Traditional grades, having to do only with Technical Knowledge, are not correlated to any measure of success outside of schools. A system can’t do much worse than that.

There’s also the myth of the learnèd professor working away into the wee hours marking papers. I’m sure this happens some places but it wasn’t the way things worked at Harvard Business School when I went there. I have reason to know.

Several of my papers were rejected. These were WACs, Written Assessment of Cases. When I explained my logic to my professors, they said my arguments were brilliant and original. In fact, my ideas were so original that they didn’t appear on the grading checklists given to the Radcliffe students who actually graded the papers. I’m not saying every prof did this nor do I know how it works today, but an automated system might be an improvement. #justsayin

What are some examples of the difference between practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge?
“Prac and Theor are best friends. They decide to learn swimming, as they want to go on an expedition.

Theor reads all the books on swimming and understand the basic mechanics of swimming thoroughly; he never goes to the practice sessions.

While Prac joins the swimming classes and goes there everyday after work, and practices it thoroughly. He understands different techniques and also just goes through the above books.

During their journey this happens,


Do you have an answer? Congo. You've understood the difference between practical and theoretical knowledge, at least basic difference.

“He again shouted at me today.
I shall find out what does that mean.
Opens google
"My husband shouted at me today. Why?"
Reads about 5 pages of search results.
Not satisfied.

Types her favourite e-commerce website.
Orders relationship dynamics, men psychology related books. About a dozen of them.

Reads them everyday.
She still couldn't figure out how to communicate to him effectively.

Totally distressed, she asks him, "I read so many books to know what can be the source of happiness to a man.
Whatever I have read seems futile, I still don't understand anything about you.
Sorry! But I am asking you directly as a last resort.
You have to forgive me for my ignorance.
Please tell me, what should I do to make you feel comfortable and at ease around me?"

He laughed heartily.
"Remember, first thing you have to do to make me feel comfortable and happy is-

She nodded eagerly

Ask me directly!", he said. "And spend more time with me than the books. You silly lady, I thought you were reading for your psychology exams & didn't disturb you for this long"

Hope this example summed it up.

Note: This is a true story.”

Theoretical knowledge — teaches the why. It helps you understand why one technique works where another fails. It shows you the whole forest, builds the context, and helps you set strategy. Where self education is concerned theory prepares you to set a direction for your future education. Theory teaches you through the experience of others.

Theoretical knowledge can often lead to a deeper understand of a concept through seeing it in context of a greater whole and understanding the why behind it..

Practical knowledge — helps you acquire the specific techniques that become the tools of your trade. It sits much closer to your actual day-to-day work. There are some things you can only learn through doing and experiencing. Where theory is often taught in the ideal of a vacuum, the practical is learned through the reality of life.

Examples are like : Reading romantic novels is a theoretical knowledge. Starting romance with a girl is a practical knowledge

2. someone who reads a book about how to run a restaurant and someone who learns how to run a restaurant by working in a restaurant have very different kinds of knowledge about how to run a restaurant.”

No comments:

Post a Comment