Information is not knowledge – Knowledge is not understanding!

“Data is not information. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom.”

Wisdom Pyramid

Today morning, after studying “Accounting Principle”, I was informed of a conference held by the Faculty of Business Administration by my lecturer. As my teacher of English was absent from class today, my friends and I decided to attend this conference. As many students often picture the atmosphere of a conference would be theoretical, boring and tedious, we at first procrastinated on participating in this conference. However, we immediately pay special attention to this conference when we heard that there were two speakers from the USA to give the speech to students. It was a prodigiously ideal chance for us to practice our English skill, especially listening skill. The lecturers coming from an advanced civilization may also help us broaden our mind, our knowledge and provide us with useful tips of advice in the career that we will pursue in the future.

And when we got into the conference room, I was overwhelmingly impressed at the convenience and  the modern look of this room. The room is furnished with wood and it is also equipped with a modern system of projectors, screens, televisions, microphones, and some kinds of equipments that I have seen on my eyes for the first time. (I have seen something like that before, however, on TV not in real life). It must be a completely different world in comparison with many kinds of classes that I have ever been to. This room was an evidence of the cooperation between our university and Lien Viet Bank.

The first presenter was a man coming from Korean. In fact, he was born in Korean, then studied in the USA for a long time, got married to an American woman, and inhabited in the USA. Therefore, he had a very good understanding of the differences between the Eastern and the Western cultures.  He pointed out a lot of differences presented in many facets, many fields that took all of us by surprise. For example, he mentioned the differences in the way people handle with problems, the dinning time, the elderly, the restaurant. As a person having a long time living in the USA, and understanding many things relating to the contrasts between the two cultures, he gave us many interesting examples to illustrate his idea in a more specific way. To point out the differences, he did not try to say that one culture was superior to the other one, but just to give us a background of the divergence in cultures of many countries all over the world. This will work, I know, as the globalization is burgeoning, every country is now inextricably linked with each other, to put it in another way, the interplays between countries happen more regularly. In this circumstance, a need of understanding the differences is really of great importance.

The second presenter came from the USA, too and he is an American. Based on what Mr. James – the name of the first presenter – had delivered, he moved on to the next part and brought with the tactics to overcome the difficulties – or the obstacles arising due to the differences in cultures.  I remember one statement appearing on the Power Point slide show: ” Communication takes work. Clearly cross-cultural communication takes extra work.” Even two people living in a same environment, brought up in the same condition still have trouble in communication in some cases. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to us that the cross-cultural communication is really an arduous work. To understand and to be understood are the two most important objectives to be achieved in a conversation. And he had presented with some useful pieces of advice for better understanding, which are, say, the determination to be the first to understand and to be understood, not the one to have the first turn of speaking. In addtion, he also required us to work in a team to go over some statements made by Warren Buffet in his letter to the shareholders, to understand them, read between the lines, and by doing this, get some lessons.  To each statement, he asked us to answer 3 questions:

1) What was Mr. Buffet trying to communicate?

2) What was Mr. Buffet not saying?

3) How would this statement be understood in Vietnam?

And hereafter is the five statements, which has been condensed by Mr Leeds into 30 points from the original 25 pages of Mr Buffet:

#1 Our trust is in people rather than process.

#2 We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money.  But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.

#3 Management needs performance goals.  Lacking such standards, managements are tempted to shoot the arrow of performance and then paint the bull’s-eye around wherever it lands.

#4 Sometimes, your associates will say, “everybody else is doing it.”  This rationale is almost always a bad one if it is the main justification for a business action.  It is totally unacceptable when evaluating a moral decision.  Whenever somebody offers that phrase as a rationale, in effect they are saying that they can’t come up with a good reason.  If anyone gives this explanation, tell them to try using it with a reporter or a judge and see how far it gets them.

#5 Let me know promptly if there’s any significant bad news.  I can handle bad news but I don’t like to deal with it after it has festered for a while.

Some of them seem to be difficult to make sense at the first place. However, we finally got it, not completely though.

These questions are really challenging and necessitate the reasoning skills or the critical thinking. Growing up in the old-fashioned education, our brain seems to wear and tear over the years, and it took us a lot of time to brainstorm. It is not that serious but up to the point, that is what has happened to our mind. We got it right in the end, but there are still some vague concepts existing in my mind that require further explanations.

And one more thing that I have learnt from this conference is what I have mentioned in the title of this post: “Information is not knowledge – Knowledge is not understanding!”. This statement had pointed out one mistake that I have made for a long time in my studying. I try to get information as much as possible, I try to get the study materials as  much as possible without trying to understand them. I often download a lot of e-books pertaining to my field of interest such as economics, international relations, languages. However, I do not pay decent time to have a careful look at those ones. The presenter had me realize that even I had a mountain of books in my house but I do not know how to utilize them, to take advantage of the knowledge in the books, those books just became white elephants. As you get the data, you have to interpret them, make sense of them. Failing to do this, you are just the owner of a substantial amount of useless data.

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