The word data means facts and statistics that have been in some way collected. Our technologies now allow us to collect an endless amount of data, some of which is helpful in making sense of our world, as well as assisting with better decisions. But data by itself is just data.
Insight is an understanding of the data or information. It’s the discernment of what the data means, how it might be interpreted. Insight is necessary to make data useful; otherwise, it’s just facts with no meaning. This is the application of thinking to the data.
Wisdom is something altogether different from data or insight. Wisdom is applying experience and judgment about decisions one might take—or not take—in light of the insight and data. Wisdom offered from one person to another is called advice, something that includes data and insight, and adds something of greater value.
Data is important. If you lack a command of the facts, it is difficult to make a case that someone should be doing something different. If you lack the insights to derive meaning from the data, to explain why it matters and the implications from your interpretation, the data is useless. Insight starts with asking questions to determine what story the data tells and why based on the context in which the information is being used.
Wisdom is knowing why the insight and data matters, what it means for your dream clients, what they should do about, and how they should go about making change. Wisdom is a level of knowledge that is greater than the sum of the data and the insights. The experience that enables you to offer advice, the good judgment that has come from bad judgment (yours and other’s), and recognizing the choices of action and the accompanying trade-offs are what allows you to offer advice.
If you want to help other people produce better results, data and insight are essential, but acquiring experience is critical to your being able to offer advice in the first place.
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