This article was written by Bill Lydon, automation industry authority, journalist and former chief editor at InTech magazine.

The idea that knowledge is power, coupled with the massive amount of information available to all of us today, should mean everyone should be powerful. Never before in human history has so much information been available. Movable type and the printing press in 15th-century Europe is generally considered the first “information revolution,” followed by the mid-19th century development of the telegraph, the rise of radio and motion pictures in the early 20th century, and the development of television in the mid-20th century.

These technological breakthroughs gave people unprecedented access to information and rapidly made knowledge available. Today’s enormous amount of information can be overwhelming. In the real world, how much time can you spend qualifying what is accurate and inaccurate, learning and absorbing all of it? Learning new things, however, builds your knowledge so you can be more effective and implement better solutions. If you do not leverage new knowledge, you can be blindsided by others who apply it, especially your competitors.

This is why the sources you use to get your information are vitally important to your success. Sources, such as professional organizations like ISA and others dedicated to the subject matter area of your needs, provide a service by sifting through the tremendous amount of industry knowledge to deliver you valuable information.

Knowledge is not static. By participating in industry committees and local association meetings, you increase your knowledge and contribute to the automation profession’s body of knowledge. Sharing and interacting with others in your profession leads to new insights and ideas. Sharing among your industry peers is also a great way to verify information being given you by a variety of sources, which may have goals that are not in line with yours. Surfing the Internet to find new knowledge is very powerful. Without verification, however, you can become overconfident, leading to potential problems and, in some situations, disasters.

Gaining more knowledge and applying it to improve operational efficiency makes you an important employee. It also becomes part of your body of knowledge forever.

It is important to determine overall goals before seeking knowledge to achieve them. The Kepner-Tregoe method uses a simple but powerful set of questions that are useful to help clarify goals:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What are we trying to preserve?
  • What are we trying to avoid?

As the American baseball player, manager, and member of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

About the Author
Bill Lydon is an automation industry expert, author, journalist and formerly served as chief editor of InTech magazine. Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he co-founded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company. Lydon believes the success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative to apply automation as a strategic tool to compete.

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A version of this article also was published at InTech magazine

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