Laddering: Information to Knowledge to Wisdon

When I started out, we in research and planning got a lot of mileage out of the concept and the research tool of laddering. Going from attributes at the bottom rung of the ladder, to benefits to values. Asking people to list the attributes of a product and asking “why is that important to you,” “and why is that important to you?” until there was no more response. You then knew what the real benefits to the consumer were of a product, and how that fit into consumers’ lives, so you could help your clients and creatives create advertising that was more that a list of attributes. It’s how one brand could differentiate itself meaningfully from another. It works.

Recently, I came across a charming animated short (4:35) video that discusses laddering in a different – but actually not different – way. Maria Popova, author of the weekly blog Brain Pickings, developed this video about the importance of storytelling in the age of information. She describes the ladder from information to knowledge to wisdom, and charmingly (and astutely) showcases the value of the storyteller.

“A great storyteller — whether a journalist or editor or filmmaker or curator — helps people figure out not only what matters in the world, but also why it matters. A great storyteller dances up the ladder of understanding, from information to knowledge to wisdom. Through symbol, metaphor, and association, the storyteller helps us interpret information, integrate it with our existing knowledge, and transmute that into wisdom.”

The video is a cool reminder of what good analysts and strategic thinkers do in marketing. They get information, and ladder up to wisdom, by creating and sharing stories that bring the wisdom to life.

Wisdom in the Age of Information: Maria Popova (Future of Storytelling 2014)


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