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Know-how verses Know-why

March 31, 2011

This concept comes from Steve Haeckel, a colleague of Dave at IBM.
Know-why knowledge is knowledge of the system and how interdependencies of the parts generate the purposeful functioning of the whole.
Know-how knowledge is process knowledge that links vertical silos (hierarchies) using best practices and tasks alignment.
With respect to what Cognitive Edge practitioners achieve in their work with organizations the following really stuck me as right on:
“Success in adapting to unpredictable change stems from good systems design [know-why], not from good process design [know-how]. …process design requires predicting in advance the inputs, desired output, and best way of producing the output.”
“Knowing why makes it possible to know earlier and respond faster [weak signals].”
Haeckel uses a process he calls “customer-back”, an exercise performed in the same way as future back, to understand the context of know-why needed. This is a natural addition to our CE toolkit.

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