Writing About Education And Life

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Seek Street Knowledge Instead Of Book Knowledge

Today, an education may not educate. Many are the impressive-looking educational institutions in the world touting that they impart knowledge and life-changing paradigms. Is this the truth? Sadly, the more I interact with society, I discover how little many of us think deeply about things big and small. In fact, many of us have not really thought about the term “knowledge”. What is knowledge? Do schools impart knowledge? Why then do most of us admit that much of the "knowledge" we receive from school is not useful in the real world? Is the so-called knowledge we learn from school no different from information, like the information found in a telephone book?

I classify knowledge into 3 forms – Book Knowledge (1st Knowledge), Street Knowledge (2nd Knowledge) and Camouflaged Knowledge (3rd Knowledge). Book Knowledge is the lowest form of knowledge and is commonly found in schools and universities. This knowledge is really a mixture of knowledge and information, and one need not go to school to receive this form of knowledge. The 1st form of knowledge can be learnt on one's own.                                            

Street Knowledge (the 2nd form of knowledge) is prized today (and has always been valuable). What is Street Knowledge? It is the knowledge, usually learnt through experience, about the insights of doing things effectively, especially when related to human behaviour. Sun Tzu’s Art Of War contains Street Knowledge.  In it, you will find insightful observations of human behaviour and warfare. Harvey Mackay, whom I respect for his Street Knowledge in business, is the writer of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. You will find that his book contains nuggets of insights on business that will impress you. 

Let me cite an example to demonstrate the power of Street Knowledge. One day, Mackay bought an envelope company which was losing money. He did not know much about envelopes at all. Well, if Book Knowledge were a person, what would his advice to Mackay be?  Book Knowledge would probably have told him to create a business plan, be clear of his products’ winning features, etcetera. However, Mackay had Street Knowledge. Streetwise, he tailed his competitor’s delivery truck as it visited the offices of several clients and noted down their addresses. Some time afterwards, he met and offered these clients difficult-to-refuse prices for his envelopes. Overnight, Mackay gained a significant number of clients. Wow! A demonstration of street-wisdom! Unfortunately, few institutions teach Street Knowledge. Many only offer Book Knowledge. 

So how streetwise are you? Do you seek the 2nd form of knowledge actively? If you don't, maybe you should begin so.