Assumptions that learning equals knowledge are wrong most of the time. The vast majority of companies today just dump all of this learning on their employees, hope they’ll remember everything, and then never follow up with it. There’s no repetition, no reinforcement that goes on. All of this learning doesn’t actually help to create knowledge, and it doesn’t help business outcomes, either.

It’s time we had a serious rethink about “learning.” Chief learning officers have spent decades focused on it—heck, it’s the middle word in their title. But is this where the emphasis should be?

Let’s take a look at the definition: According to Merriam-Webster, learning is the process of studying, teaching, and education. It’s centered on the delivery of information; in the corporate world, that means how to get information to an employee, which often translates to classroom-based instruction, a learning management system, or blended approaches. Simple enough…

When you look closer, though, there’s a key component missing. Business success doesn’t result from learning; it results from sales, or customer service, or even just having your team get home safely after each shift. To achieve these outcomes, employees need to have the rightknowledge. Learning is simply the means of acquiring knowledge, and that distinction is key.

The process of learning is irrelevant if no real knowledge is acquired

Too many times, employees get pulled into training sessions where, over the course of a week, they’re taught a million things. But, during the course of this information overload, does the learning transfer happen? The reality is that we now know the answer is “no.” Most learning decays over time and ends up being a waste because it’s not designed to effectively create long-term knowledge.

So what is knowledge, then, really?

Going back to our trusty Merriam-Webster, knowledge involves understanding, comprehension, and mastery. It’s about acquiring, sustaining, growing, sharing, and applying information to achieve an organizational impact. If learning is a recipe, then knowledge is the cake. You need to have knowledge in order to perform at your best; knowledge is what truly drives the right job actions and, in a corporate setting, ultimately helps companies achieve their objectives.