That question got asked in a session all about putting theory into practice. I found the session very fascinating because there were so many different disciplines brought up that study theory application and utilization - psychodynamic approach, leadership development, action learning, action research, just to name about half. Then someone asked that question that sounds so philosophical, yet made sense when he explained how many different cultures he had dealt with in his formative years and educational process (something like six cultures). Then each of these professors answered him in meaningful ways - one discussed that knowledge isn't a concrete thing but very fluid, another commented on "knowing vs. knowledge", and yet another simply pointed out that a lot of people can talk about what they know, but we can only count on what they can actually do with that supposed knowledge. I really enjoyed the session, and it wasn't even on my radar screen until one of the facilitators mentioned it last night at our AOM new member orientation.
So how do we know what we know, and does what we know really matter to others? Is knowledge, as one of them said, simply a security blanket that we use whenever we feel challenged or fear embarrassment? So often, people do just that in the midst of a debate - point out a fact they consider irrefutable, if only to show they are not stupid. The idea of putting knowledge into practice fascinates me because leadership development is such a big part of what first interested me in becoming a professor (and hopefully, a scholar). In the context of my other interests, throwing "facts" around lately seems to be at the center of the political debate. Facts are not being used to educate so much as to throw the next volley of arrows, or at other times they are being used to cover the ears, eyes, and mouth in the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" pose. If facts became olive branches, perhaps we might find our way to a better future together.