Knowledge to Abilities

How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd?

Some years back, I got into an interesting discussion with an elderly man- a kind of philosophical discussion. He commented that anyone can be intelligent but few possess wisdom. That was quite a point. From that point onwards, I have been looking at journey of self-assertion and how we view our self on the spectrum of learning. As you engage in continuous learning you keep evolving in your understanding and skill levels and you leap the new levels. The question becomes is where do you stop where you are on this spectrum.Here is some insight into this in this Part-1 of the this post which will be published in 6 parts. Do come back or subscribe this to check for subsequent parts.


In simple words “knowledge means what you know”.

When I was young, I was quite curious about driving cars several years back. I gathered quite a bit of information about different models, its features and how different mechanical system operate together to drive a car. Several times I imagined how fuel is getting ignited and how it is generating thrust and then started relating it with pressing of pedal. What I was doing was gathering knowledge.

When you learn ‘something’ new whether it is a new fact or a new skill, focus on acquiring comprehensive knowledge about that ‘something’. Comprehensive knowledge comprises of three types of knowledge — factual, conceptual, procedural and strategic. These different knowledge types are acquired through the processes like understanding, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating. When you learn a new thing, you start knowing some facts about it (factual knowledge), as you unravel new relationship how things are organized (conceptual knowledge), you get to understand how to apply knowledge or do certain things (procedure knowledge). The real learning is how to use different strategies to make the most of your knowledge (strategic knowledge).

What it means to you?

  • Research shows that highly successful leaders have highly developed situational and strategic knowledge. Strategic knowledge is also called knowing about knowledge which is very important for you to develop because this enables you to monitor your learning and able to use different strategies to use knowledge and approach different situations using different strategies.


In simpler words “skill is what you know you can do”.

Skill generally refers to something you can do which is verifiable or demonstrable. As years go by, I got first opportunity to drive. The moment I took the wheel and pressed the pedal, I exactly could relate what it is like pressing the pedal to accelerate the car. I was able to connect my conceptual and factual knowledge was getting connected with procedural knowledge during this practical experience. However, I needed some practice on having a feel on how much pressure on the pedal means how much speed and then how other controls need to be coordinated timely.

The skills are most commonly always considered to something physical or motor related. That’s not completely true. Even the ‘evaluating’ and ‘thinking’ is a skill since it requires practice. While I was driving, I was also evaluating the speed and deciding when to press the brake. This was kicking my higher order thinking even though I was learning the skill.

What it means to you?

  • Skill acquisition comes with several different approaches to skills. From a user perspective it is commonly believed that skills can be acquired by either or combination of various modes like observing vs. doing vs. feeling vs. thinking.
  • How do you perfect the skill? Well, that comes with practice. Researchers emphasize deliberate practice to excel a skill. By doing it again and again, it builds confidence.
  • However, note that confidence does NOT mean competence. So even if you have mastered a skill, don’t overrate your confidence as competence yet.


Let me give you an equation.


In simpler words abilities means: You “can” do it. You have been equipped to do it, but we are yet to see the disposition how effectively you do it.”

For a while, this might contradict the way you have learned to use this term. You might be using this interchangeably to mean several other things. Let me see if I can elaborate with same example. As I started driving and started exerting my knowledge at appropriate points, I started making decisions based on speed, distance, traffic, road conditions and other factors. Demonstrating the driving skill required me to apply some knowledge and concepts like friction and distance before I can stop the car. As I become better at this, someone commented ‘now you are “able” to drive’. Yes. That’s what the ability means. In world of reality ability refers to total sum of Knowledge and Skill.

What it means to you?

“You are not yet there”. Don’t you hear that very often from your colleagues and managers when you just recently attended a training course and have not quite yet put the learning into action yet?

  • In order to be known for your abilities, you need to make sure you integrate knowledge and skills very well. While you are learning a new skill, you will need to be cautious about how well-rounded and comprehensive knowledge you are acquiring about this skill.
  • Remember to focus on strategic knowledge if you need to stay out of crowd of people having same kind of skills. That’s why “abilities” differentiate people even though they may have ‘supposedly’ acquire similar kind of knowledge and skill from a training course.

Stay tuned for next part of this post where I will shed some light on what there beyond ability as you travel your journey to Mastery. This post will be published in 6 parts. Do come back or subscribe this to check for subsequent parts.


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Raman K. Attri is a Training Transformational Consultant, Learning Strategist and Researcher with rare experience in shortening time-to-proficiency of employees performing complex jobs at complex organizations. Strong believer in personal performance as the starting point of any world-class leadership, he developed a scientific model Personal Resonance© to achieve peal personal performance and self-leadership. Additionally he helps trainers, learning specialists, instructional designers and training professionals with articles on proven techniques to transition successfully into training and learning management role.

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