THIS CHAPTER is DEVOTED to the processes involved in giving information in such a way as to maximise comprehension. We will concentrate essentially on the cognitively based task of sharing detail and bringing about understanding. Presentations that rely more on emotion and are intended primarily to persuade (rather than enlighten) through creating changes in attitude or opinion (rather than knowledge) will be dealt with in Chapter 12, in relation to influencing. Without any shadow of doubt, people have more information available to them now than at any other time in history. We live in a world where the onward march of computer-mediated technology in all its forms and guises is an ever-present reality. The Internet is currently its proudest epitome. Yet being able to access a welter of undigested facts, theories and findings does not automatically make us more enlightened.
Referring to communication within organisations, Clampitt (2001) made a valid distinction between data, information and knowledge. While recognising difficulties in providing tight definitions of each, data are said to concern particular representations of reality, not all of which may be accurate or relevant to that person at that time. Information is created when certain elements are focused on, isolated from background data, and their potential contribution to decision-making realised. Finally, knowledge relies on recognizing patterns and consistencies in information, making possible the development of theories that can be tested. It is only such knowledge that produces effective action. There is, therefore, a need to give thought to the organisation of material, how it is delivered and to whom, if we are to benefit from what we read and hear, as well as successfully getting our own message across.