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In our lives, there are often situations when it is necessary to learn a new topic quickly or explain it to others. In such cases, it is important to make the learning process as accessible and understandable as possible. This is exactly what the unique approach developed by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman is all about. His technique of delivery allows information to be transmitted and absorbed, making learning effective and fruitful.
INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE — NOT THE SAME THING
Our life is basically a transformation of information into knowledge. This process begins with the birth of a human being and does not stop until the very end. And it has two interrelated components: knowledge must either be obtained from more knowledgeable sources (books, audiovisual content, people), or it must be passed on to those who know less than we do.
In both cases, a fundamental question arises: how can we do this simply and quickly without losing the essence? This is important because information alone is not as valuable as the knowledge based on it.
Let us explain with the example of an electric current. By describing it as an ordered movement of electric charge carriers, we are broadcasting information. Without additional explanations, it is useless. Knowledge is, for example, telling a child that sticking a nail into a socket can lead to electric shocks and even death. That will be enough for him at this stage.
One of the techniques of Feynman’s techniqueology has just been used — to explain complex things in simple words in order to gain or impart the necessary knowledge.
DESIRE TO COMPREHEND THE ESSENCE
Richard Feynman (1918–1988) is not only an outstanding scientist in the field of theoretical and quantum physics but also the author of a unique technique of teaching knowledge. His desire to understand the essence of things, expressed in brilliant explanations of any phenomena or physical processes, brought him wide fame far beyond the scientific environment.
Students loved his lectures because he told about physics not only understandable but also interesting. Playing with physics, he nevertheless made many discoveries and even won the Nobel Prize.
What I cannot recreate, I do not understand
Feynman’s techniqueology is so effective that it can be applied to describing itself. Here is its essence in one sentence: if you can not explain something to a child, then you do not understand it yourself. By the way, this saying is attributed to Einstein, who himself attended Feynman’s first scientific seminar and was fascinated.
HOW THE FEYNMAN TECHNIQUE WORKS
The canonical Feynman technique includes four steps, but in fact, you can limit yourself to three. These are data collection, step-by-step gap-filling, and simplification through analogies.
#1 Data collection
After choosing a new topic to study, the first step is to gather as much key information about it as possible. In the case of teaching, select the information that is to be given to the student in the form of knowledge.
To do this, use several sources; the main thing is that they should be reliable. Wikipedia is full of errors and inaccuracies, but articles there, as a rule, contain a lot of useful thematic links. And a properly formed query to Google will bring a rich catch of relevant information. Structure everything you find with notes in a notebook or electronic document.
#2 Filling in the gaps
Usually, learning something complex is a multi-step process that requires several attempts to look at a topic from different angles. After all, during the data collection phase, there is a chance of missing something important, and this will prevent you from understanding the deeper essence of the subject later on.
That’s why, once you have reached the boundary of knowledge, you need to go back and repeat the source material. And in the meantime, look for additional data. You will be surprised to discover how new «bricks» of information are easily incorporated into the database you already have, filling in the gaps. This is because the foundation has already been laid. Now, you can make connections and inferences on your own.
Iteration is also good because it deepens your understanding. By improving your explanations, you understand the subject matter better and more fully. And when transferring knowledge, it speeds up its assimilation and, again, understanding.
At this point, we come to the core of the technique. Anything that seems at least somewhat complicated should be explained as simply as possible, like a child about an electrical socket.
What does this mean in practice? No verbal constructions with an abundance of specific terminology, and at the same time, no simplifications with jargonisms or abstract descriptions.
Speaking of «abstraction» as an example. It is wrong to describe a painting by Picasso or other artists of this trend with this word. The right thing to say is that the canvas depicts forms, color combinations, and interrelationships of phenomena not typical of the real world.
Only easily accessible words, understandable even to a schoolchild of junior high school. Such explanations, as well as analogies, not only facilitate the assimilation of knowledge but also allow you to simplify the connections between things or concepts. Therefore, it helps you better understand the essence of what you are talking about.
DOUBTING MEANS LEARNING
Knowledge really is priceless. The deeper our understanding of the world in all its manifestations, the more opportunities we have to interact with it and realize our own plans and goals.
The Feynman techniqueology is a great way to acquire or transfer knowledge. And given the scarcity of time in today’s world, you have to run with all your legs just to stay in place. The technique will allow you to run twice as fast to still get where you want to go.
Most importantly, this path of perfection cannot be traveled without a willingness to question knowledge. The search that leads to discovery and new knowledge is born out of doubt.