Written by: Rob Eddy
So, I came across this video the other day – it isn’t new, it was posted more than a year ago and has an impressive 13 million + views. Some of you may have already seen it – but there are
a couple of really important messages here that I thought were worth sharing. Actually, they are quite relevant to several things we see frequently here at IG.
It is a fun video to watch for a number of reasons, but mostly because it teaches us something very interesting about our own nature. It’s about a subject that is universal and that a big percentage of us have done – riding a bicycle –so it resonates with a very large audience.
The first message that’s relevant to what we do here at IG is that knowledge IS NOT the same as UNDERSTANDING. The video does a great job of illustrating this concept with a simple word problem:
KNOWLEDGE ≠ UNDERSTANDING
To some it may seem like semantics, but in our business – where we’re explaining a product, process or a complex scientific story – it’s a very important distinction. What we often call the HOW versus the WHY.
Just because you know something does not mean you understand it. It’s possible to know a poem and not understand it’s meaning, or know how a yo-yo works, but not know why it works.
In our unique business, it’s important to know the difference. It’s also important to know how to determine when someone simply needs to know how to do something versus why it works. Understanding when the exercise revolves around the HOW or the WHY always helps guide us in our deliverables.
The second message I took from this video is one we encounter regularly when working with scientists and engineers, people we refer to as the SMEs or subject matter experts. SMEs have invested considerable time and effort in becoming experts in their particular area.
The challenge for these folks is that they are often so close and familiar with their subject they can’t look at it in the same way a novice would. They have what we’ve come to call product bias, meaning they’re so immersed in their product or concept, that it can be hard for them to explain the subject to someone who has no prior knowledge of it.
As Destin Sandlin (the engineer and narrator) says in the video: “Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your head, sometimes you cannot change that. Even if you want to.”
This is one of the areas where IG adds a lot of value to our clients. We take the time to understand, but we have the benefit of viewing the subject with what we call “fresh eyes.” This allows us to deliver the story in a clear and concise way without leaving out details that might be important to a novice – specifically details that are so obvious that an expert might have a tendency to overlook them.
The take-away is that whether you’re explaining the HOW or the WHY, you should always start by thinking about WHO the audience is and employ a fresh set of eyes to make sure you’re not overlooking something that may be obvious to you, but not to others.