Knowledge and skills are two ingredients that largely determine how competent someone is in a certain field. But often the two terms are used interchangeably, which isn’t totally correct.
This article will explain the difference between these two terms and discuss several effective methods to develop both.
What’s the difference between knowledge and skills?
The differences between knowledge and skills are principally what and how you learn.
Knowledge implies something ‘theoretical’ and refers to information about a given topic that you learn from books, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, internet, or school/college.
Skills imply something ‘practical’ and refer to the application of theoretical information in practice and in the workplace.
Below we’ll be delving deeper into the differences between these two terms.
So, what do we mean by ‘knowledge’?
To clarify the difference between knowledge and skills, it’s important to define both terms properly and provide a few examples. Let’s start with ‘knowledge’.
A commonly used definition of knowledge, according to Wikipedia, reads as follows:
‘Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning.’
Knowledge generally implies theoretical understanding and is something that can be passed on from generation to generation in many ways, for example books, magazines, archives, schools, and colleges.
A characteristic of knowledge is that it’s forever growing as we conduct new research and build upon what we already know. It has true value when it’s shared with others and they too can take advantage of this knowledge.
It’s a vital, theoretical building block for acquiring and mastering skills.
Knowledge can take many forms. Here are a few examples.
- A flair for languages is an example of knowledge. This could mean that someone speaks, understands, and/or writes in one or more languages. This knowledge could come in handy at work (translations, customer relations, etc.) or even on holiday.
- Can you remember the names and reigns of all the Roman emperors? Can you recount and reconstruct the course of the American Civil War? If so, then you’ve acquired great historical knowledge.
- Some people don’t have to read the boards at the zoo because they already recognize and know the names of all the animals. This is an example of someone with ready zoological knowledge.
- Someone with self-knowledge is in tune with his or her own thoughts, emotions, traits, and feelings. It implies you have a realistic picture of your strengths and weaknesses.
So, what do we mean by ‘skills’?
Now we know what ‘knowledge’ is, it’s time to take a look at ‘skills’. What do we mean when we use this word? We’ll explain this using a few practical examples.
A skill is the ability to perform a certain task or role. It relates to application of knowledge in a particular situation or context, as it requires that you use previously acquired knowledge or information. Generally speaking, it implies that some form of practice is required to hone the skill.
Beside knowledge, mastering a certain skill requires experience.
It’s this combination of knowledge and experience that allow you to perform a task or role to the best of your ability.
Together with knowledge and attitude, skills also form the basis of competences.
- The ability to play a musical instrument is an example of a skill. It requires a certain degree of talent, basic knowledge, and practice.
- Writing an article or a book starts with a knowledge of the language in which you’re writing. Language knowledge therefore forms the basis of writing skills, which need to be honed with practice and experience.
- An MBA student acquires a lot of important information about sales and marketing, but it’s the ability to translate this information into a meaningful marketing strategy or sales pitch that equates to a skill.
Acquiring knowledge and mastering skills
Luckily, there are many ways to acquire knowledge and master skills. Below, you’ll find a few examples.
On‑the‑job training is a great way to acquire new skills in the workplace. Do you know co-workers with interesting and vital skills? Ask them how they developed these skills. Use any tips they may give you to make a start on acquiring these skills, too. Alternatively, ask your employer or manager if it’s possible to assign you to an expert, inside or outside your company,
Articles, blogs, and books
The internet, libraries, and reputable bookstores are veritable goldmines. You’ll find tonnes of informative articles online that provide the knowledge you’ll need to acquire and master new skills or hone existing skills. Even in this digital age, books are still highly valuable sources of information because they provide information in a clearly structured and orderly fashion.
Training courses & workshops
It’s also possible to develop skills by taking a traditional training course or workshop. Many colleges and universities provide courses or programs at weekends or in the evening. Workshops are also a great way to learn specific skills, for example web design or programming.
If you’re looking to acquire knowledge and master skills at a time that’s convenient to you, then e-learning may be the answer. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. The number of interactive courses and amount of digital study materials are growing by the day.
Visual study aids
Webinars, podcasts and YouTube videos are a prime example of easily accessible tools for acquiring knowledge and skills. They’re often short and share information in easy-to-digest, bite-sized blocks. Webinars are often live or on-demand, whereas podcasts and instructional videos can be watched or listened to whenever you want.
Managing your employees’ knowledge and skills
If you’re looking to help your workforce realize their full potential, then it’s important you have a clear picture of their knowledge and skills. AG5’s skills management software is perfect for mapping and maintaining this information.
The software allows you to:
- map the skills and competences present in your organization quickly and easily
- replicate organizational structures, however complex, using drag-and-drop menus
- find the best replacements for employees off sick in a single search
- enter updates and training results from the shop floor in real time
- link projects to specific expertise and experience