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Knowledge vs. synthesis: Are you asking Google for all your answers? Why ‘synthesis’ is the new skil

Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis

SoFIA Board Member, Founder, StudySmart

Knowledge is defined as ‘facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject’ (Oxford Living Dictionaries). It was extremely difficult to acquire knowledge 100 years ago or even 25 years ago. Books were responsible for the transfer of knowledge; while professors at universities (among other individuals) had access to books, research findings, information and data from other colleagues and this knowledge, access and publications drafted based on this interaction gave them elite status.

Don’t get me wrong; professors still have elite status, but this access to information they had is now ‘open’ and shared by all through the Internet, knowledge-management portals, cloud systems, etc. Twenty or 30 years ago, knowing a definition, or what something meant or even how something looked was important. Today you have images and videos and ‘how to’ articles and demonstrations on almost everything. In schools, teachers asked us if we know a specific date, a definition of a term or the answer to a multiple-choice question. With the dramatic explosion of the Internet and its ‘open access’ character, knowledge has become somewhat of lesser importance. People ‘google’ the question and get the answer. If you want more on the same topic, you can access info from Wikipedia (yes I know, it may not be reliable, but it is useful), or even watch a short video of someone explaining it. Educators are being challenged more and more and the bar has been raised. So what’s missing?

What is now missing, is ‘synthesis, which may be defined as ‘the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole’.How you can link knowledge areas together, how you can create synergies, how you can connect the dots, how you can then challenge existing knowledge, how can you synthesize information on the web with an idea you have to create a new concept, hoe you can be innovative. This should probably be an area where professional trainers/educators should work on.

Synthesis is becoming an important competency. Remember that professionals are appraised based on competencies within a corporate environment, not just on the basis of their knowledge. Degrees may get you to the interview, but competencies make you stay. All major organizations are assessing their staff through competency models including skills and abilities. With the tremendous learning characteristics of the Internet, its endless amount of information and our free access to it, it becomes imperative to know what to use, when to use it, how to link areas of interest, understand reliability, validity and try to be innovative. Thus, it is important to create flow charts, parallels, analogies, mind maps and other techniques to summarize and link theories. With so much information, we need to make things simpler and save time for professionals. Yes, knowledge is still important, but synthesis is becoming more and more imperative given the massive attack of information.

In the era of big data, it is therefore important to connect the dots, link and innovate rather than merely present and define. Are you ‘synthesising’ enough or are you asking google for all your answers?

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