Your personal knowledge system

With few exceptions, everybody has a personal knowledge system.

I use the term as Roger Martin meant it in “The Opposable Mind” (pp. 103).

It’s all summed up in one nice little diagram.


The text summary is:

Your stance, “Who am I in the word and what am I trying to accomplish”, guides what tools you use. That is, “With what tools and models do I organize my thinking and understand the world?”, often guides experiences: “With what experiences can I build my repertoire of sensitivities and skills?”.

Likewise, your experiences inform your tools which inform your stance.


I’ve railed against definition by tools. Again. Again. And Again. You are more than the sum of the tools and skills you know. You are at least 50% more. You’re probably 90% more. And, over the medium run, 300% more.

Practical, commercial, day-one “hit the ground running” effective skills are very relevant. Those are table stakes. To get to my desk they need to know something, but I’m not going to refuse to see somebody because they only know SAS and SQL when my stack is R and CouchDB.

People are so much more than the tools they jockey.

They have experiences and stances. I judge stances to be, by far, the most important trait. It’s very hard to have much control over experiences when tools are dictated (as the tyrant that imposed SPSS on his teams, I’m actively aware of my contribution to experiences through tools). Still, they have a stance. You have a stance.

Having a stance is all about you.

Your stance is the real predictive variable.

Tools can be learned quickly, especially by effective teachers, effective learners, and effective cultures. Great environments are generated by leaders who really love to learn from their teams, and teams who love to teach their leaders.

Tools are really a spurious variable in the war for, (and on), talent.

For my part:

I’m trying to understand why nature works the way it does and, using that understanding to generate better futures. I’m mostly a scientist, partly an engineer, and above all else, I’m a person.

My primary tools are the scientific method, models, quantitative methods, and design thinking. My secondary tools, mostly software, various engines and languages, aren’t worth mentioning in this space.

Those tools guide my experiences, which are heavily rooted in program development, analytical software design, strategic canvas generation, education, forecasting, department architecture, and having a perverse attraction to risky projects.

Those experiences have informed my tools, as I’ve since adopted far more leaner and iterative methods, which have, in turn, informed my stance. I’m no engineer. We’re not even close to having a discipline in the data or marketing sciences that is remotely close to marketing engineering or data engineering.

For your part:

What’s your personal knowledge system?

What’s your stance? What are you trying to get accomplished professionally?

How adaptable are you? You may know a tool.

Are you more than a tool?

How much real accountability and control do you have over your experiences?

Why It’s Important

How you see the universe depends on what you know.

Your personal knowledge system matters.


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at