It has become a cliche to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish religious mysticism holds ten emanations as central to the ethos. A group of three of them are totally relevant today and have great resonance for me.
The acronym for this group in transliterated Hebrew is Chabad signifying Chochma (wisdom), Binah (understanding) and Dat (knowledge)
This group covers three of the most significant tenets of modern leadership and deserve some further discussion.
Some years ago my Vistage CEO peer group had the pleasure of hearing US speaker Herb Meyer, who had been the senior counsellor at the CIA, give a paper on the difference between data and intelligence.
In the extraordinary growth of data availability that we now enjoy, to a large extent there is far too much data quickly available out there than we know how to handle.
We can ask any question that we like on Google and within a nano-second be given access to a range of sites with all the information that we need.
I heard a great story recently. A hermit who had been holed up in a cave for fifty years decided to rejoin the world. In conversation with the first person he met he suggested that things will have changed somewhat.
“They certainly have” said his new friend, “For example, I have in my pocket a device that gives me access to all the knowledge in the world!”
“Gracious me” said the hermit, “What do you use it for?”
“Mainly for looking at pictures of dogs, cats and other people’s dinner and having arguments with total strangers” was the reply.
It is almost embarrassing to confess that we all understand that one.
Another problem lies in the fact that we are now data-rich and time-poor so the question is, how can we be more usefully selective in the vast opportunities now open to us?
Kabbalah demonstrates the route from knowledge, through understanding to the ultimate objective of wisdom. It encourages us to seek genuine knowledge, to work with others to develop understanding and thus to reach the ultimate goal of wisdom.
This was thought in those early days to be so powerful an insight that only men over the age of forty were considered to have sufficient experience to be allowed to study Kabbalah.
Herb Meyer put it into modern context defining the route as data leading to information resulting in intelligence.
With almost limitless access to data the need for filtering and contextual research is evident in order to make it manageable, usable and relevant.
The next move is to analyse this information to develop intelligence that will allow us to strengthen our understanding and most importantly to make relevant decisions.
It is all very logical. Good desk research can be of enormous importance in moving a business forward.
At one stage in my career I produced multi-client market research projects for a US company, using both field and desk research methods.
To my surprise, even then, I realised that there was a vast amount of published data out there that often was of more value than that resulting from interviews in the field.
It is remarkable that an ancient religious and mystical philosophy not only has relevance today but can also give us an insight into the effectiveness of our current decision making processes.
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