Experience and Knowledge

3 Min. Read

A recent course prompt assigned to one of my daughters in school got me thinking: “What is the relationship between experience and knowledge?”

While knowledge without experience certainly has value, it is often abstract and incomplete. We might read about the significance of a piece of art or have a professor explain a management technique, but until we stand in front of a painting or lead someone differently, the depth of our command of the knowledge is limited. Getting out to new places and taking on new experiences always makes our learning more concrete.

Visiting factories is often my preferred way of learning and expanding my mindset. Just last week, I toured the weaving and finishing operation of a luxury fabric manufacturer in Prato, Italy. The way staff welcomed me into the building, the placement of the production machines, and even the inventory labeling got me thinking about my own systems and those of the companies I work with most closely these days. It also inspired me to look more deeply at my processes and a client’s processes and find ways to make them smoother and better designed.

Through this brief experience, I found myself looking at my home furnishings differently and wondering about how I cleaned a spill on our sofa a few weeks ago. During my tour, I was amazed at the intensity of the finishing process and how durable fabrics can be (I should have rubbed harder when I tried cleaning my sofa the first time – the ‘stain’ came out easily with a little extra effort). More importantly, the visit gave me a new bit of insight for a company I work with. When I saw how yarn was stored at the weaving business, it inspired my ideas related to how the coffee bean roasting company can adjust their batch sizes and stage their green coffee beans more efficiently before roasting.

While these revelations might not be revolutionary, they can remind us that being in unfamiliar territory and seeing new ways of operating can help us examine ourselves differently. More importantly, a new experience can help us reexamine our foundational understanding of life and work and ask ourselves: “Why do we do it that way?”

From each experience comes many pieces of new knowledge. Think about seeking out a new place to visit or trying a new activity on your own as a way to invest in your future. It’s about taking an important action with the idea that it will add long-term value rather than scrambling to fix an urgent issue that does not help us move forward.  

Have you gotten out there recently?

P.S. Thanks to my friend Mike H. for reminding me that I’ve been terrible about sending out communications for a long time. I need to remember that the experiences I enjoy when newsletter readers write back to me asking a question or thanking me for a tip can help reinforce my knowledge, too.