For a change, this post isn’t going to be about HR. It could be; but you can extrapolate it to almost everything in the world. It is a well-known yet neglected universal truth and I’m going to attempt to bring it back to life.
Richard Feynman says, “You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
If you follow me on twitter, you already know how obsessed I am with Richard Feynman. He couldn’t be closer to the truth with the above sentences. It is what we’ve all got used to doing. We know how to define a word. We skim the surface for rudimentary understanding and stop there. Rarely does one attempt to uncover the layers, dive deep and understand the core concept. We believe that this understanding is enough. It almost never is.
You can never solve a problem if you don’t understand the problem, you can’t modify something if you don’t understand all of it and you can definitely not drive change if you don’t know how the engine works. We’ve got used to words like engagement, tools like DiSC and concepts like ‘state of flow’ without ever stopping long enough to analyze what they truly mean. Can you explain all of this to a 5 year old in a language they understand? If not, you do not understand it well enough. No concept is too complicated, advanced or technical to be broken down into simplicity. Even rocket science isn’t that hard.
Knowing the name of something does not indicate understanding. You can read a book and forget it the next day, you can attend a class and not know how to implement (that would be a rather poor class); and you can watch a movie and miss the underlying theme. It takes time and effort to get to the core – elements that we always run short of.
Make the effort. It is well worth it. It gives you the power to change the world.
P.S: If there’s one book you read this summer, let it be The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman. It’s an absolutely joyous read with bits that will have you laughing out loud.