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Have you ever tried to make a decision without having the facts that are relevant to the issue? Could you even make a decision without knowledge of the issue itself and all its components, including those that go beyond the facts?

Learning is something you do every day. The better you understand the learning process, the better you will be able to use this understanding in the redesign of your organization.

There are five levels of learning: facts, information, know-how, comprehension and wisdom.

1. Facts - The first level of learning deals with facts—details or data which result from direct observation and research. Facts make up the most basic level of learning. Taken on their own at this level, facts have no direct application. But without facts, you cannot move on to the other levels of learning.
2. Information - The second level of learning deals with information—observational data in a usable form. The descriptions that information consists of tell who, what, when, where, and how many. With information, you can begin to make use of facts.
3. Know-how - Know-how is the focus of the third level of learning. Know-how consists of a collection of descriptions in the form of instructions. Know-how is about having the instructions you need to make use of the information you have. With know-how, you derive knowledge from experience.
4. Comprehension - The fourth level of learning deals with comprehension. Comprehension answers the question "Why?" At the comprehension level, learning is composed of explanations. When you understand why, you are better able to use the knowledge and know-how you already have.
5. Wisdom - Wisdom is the focus of the fifth and final level of learning. Wisdom is the ability to evaluate, and it incorporates values. It is essential for development. Using know-how and comprehension without wisdom can result in actions that don't work for the overall mission of the organization.

The five levels of learning build on one another. In an organizational setting, you will often need to use all five levels to make a decision, work on a redesign, or build relationships with co-workers.

Mike is the CEO of a transnational airline corporation. He has been studying the levels of learning that are currently affecting his organization.

"The facts are what happen in the company on a day-to-day basis. The facts include all planes taking off, customers arriving at their destinations, and packages being shipped. There is no way to catalog them without turning them into information."

"The information we work with includes how many planes take off every day, how many passengers arrive at their destinations, what these destinations are, how many packages we ship, and where we ship the packages."

"The know-how involved here describes how all this moving of people and baggage gets done. This level of learning deals with processes and the instructions they consist of. Without know-how, our pilots, baggage handlers, and attendants would be lost."

"Comprehension is just as vital for our people to be able to do their jobs. Pilots need to understand not only the mechanics of flying but also why it works. As CEO, I want to understand how the pieces fit together most effectively."

"Wisdom is the hardest level to explain, but it's also the most important. The company's values are rooted in wisdom. We need wisdom to make decisions about our mission as a company. Our employees depend on our commitment to our values."

Like Mike, you have to know the levels of learning and how they build on one another to make full use of them in redesigning your organization. These levels turn day-to-day experiences into something that your company can organize and use in planning and decision making.

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