On a number of occasions, when I have asked employees of projectfocused organizations whether they know how to build spreadsheets, I have been answered in the following way: “No, I don't, because my company hasn't offered me any spreadsheet training.” I find this answer to be enormously disheartening, because it suggests that the respondent believes that the only way to learn new methods is through formal training. This simply is not true. One trait of the most effective people in the work world is that they are constandy upgrading their education by whatever means are available. If they have an opportunity to learn by taking a course, so be it. If formal courses are not available, they teach themselves. They may go to a library or bookstore to acquire books that will provide them with the information they need. They may also try to identify people who possess the skills they seek and work with them to strengthen their capabilities.
This chapter examines various ways that people can build their knowledge-based competence, ranging from formal education and training to self-instruction to mentorship and on-the-job training. Before discussing the different avenues for gaining knowledge, however, I would like to explore a point that is obvious but often overlooked by people who aspire to strengthen their knowledgebased competence—that is, no amount of classroom education and book knowledge by itself is going to make individuals competent. Ultimately, the knowledge gained through study must be