Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ‘any fool can know, the point is to understand’. He was right, of course. There is certainly a difference between knowing and understanding. Here are some examples:
I know how to drive a car but I don’t understand how a car worksI know what the holographic principle is but I certainly don’t understand itI know you’re upset but I don’t understand why
Knowing is to have knowledge of something. Understanding that 'thing' allows you to act on that knowledge and use it practically. As a content strategist I'm continually striving to move from knowing to understanding. It’s one thing to know that you have 28,000 unique visitors to your site a month but it’s another to understand their behaviours, lifestyles, media consumption, expenditure, needs, goals and motivations.
It's good to know you have over 11,000 followers on Twitter, but what posts does that audience share most, what do they respond to, what do they engage with? Yes, we have over 20,000 people on our mailing list, but when did they sign up, what pages, what campaigns, have they started a free trial, did they convert, were they referred? I know the numbers, I need to understand everything else to make our marketing and communication effective.
When I worked at BBC Wales in the audiences team I was amazed at how many people involved in programme making, storytelling and editorial didn’t actually understand their audience. They knew them (although they were sometimes wrong about that too) but they never got beneath the top level data. They may have had 360,000 viewers but knew nothing more about the individuals that made up that number.
Sometimes knowing is enough but often you need to have an understanding. I need the latter in order to make informed decisions about what content to produce, who to write it for, where to publish it, and how to distribute it effectively as part of our content strategy. I don't want to be a fool, I want to understand.