Try This Feynman Technique to Learn, Explain Better

the difference between a problem and a solution is people know what the solution looks like

Have you ever noticed how crystal clear words sounds in your head -- and how confusing those same out loud words are?

I was wrapping up my laps around the neighborhood and stopped to talk with Robert across the street. The conversation meandered into bank fraud. After some back and forth, Robert said, "Wait. What exactly do you do?"

Since we were on the cybersecurity theme, I answered with words that I thought were spot on in that context. Eventually, I tied it all together with "We're a fractional CIO and cybersecurity company."

"Just say that", Robert said. "Your audience knows what that means. The rest will overwhelm them." And there you have it.

Explaining an important concept to a client or answering the door opening what-do-you-do question are opportunities you don’t want to squander. And yet we all get tangled up in our word complexity.

The Feynman Technique Uses Explaining to Build Learning

Richard Feynman was a Nobel prize winning physicist known for his ability to convey complex concepts in simple, everyday words. He believed that resorting to technical jargon indicated a lack of subject expertise. 

The Feynman Technique is a 4-step framework for developing a deep understanding of a subject. A key step in this process is explaining what you’ve learned. And that’s what makes this simple roadmap such an effective communication tool.

Let’s jump in.

the 4-step Feynman Technique develops a deeper understanding of a subject

1) Describe your topic

  • Start with a blank sheet of paper

  • Write your topic at the top of the page

  • Jot down everything you know about the topic

  • Read, research, and continually add ideas and discoveries

  • 2) Explain what you know

  • On another sheet of paper write down everything you know about the topic – but imagine that you're talking to a 10-year-old

  • Use analogies that make unfamiliar concepts relatablee

  • Draw a picture

  • Describe the outcome in vivid words

  • 3) Evaluate and refine your results

  • Give yourself an honest review

  • Where did you lapse into jargon

  • Where did your imaginary listener give you the huh look

  • Where in your explanation did you start to feel frustrateds

  • What do you need to know to sharpen and clarify your message

  • Rinse and repeat

  • 4) Organize and clarify your message

  • Create a simple, engaging narrative

  • Share your new message with a few other

  • Gather their feedback and refine

  • Publish your message in live conversations and online

  • A Real Example of the Feynman Technique

    The Google search phrase “what is data in transit” brings visitors to our website every day. I have no idea why folks are searching for this, but it happens. This is an important technical concept where helpful meaning is quickly lost in jargon. For that reason, we use both simple words and an illustration to explain it.

    Here’s a snippet of the words and the visual from our website.

    What is Data in Transit?

    Data in transit, also called data in motion, is data that is actively moving from one location to another. This can be across the internet, within a private network, or from one device to another.

    So much of what we do daily involves data in transit. Sending an email, browsing online, accessing cloud applications, and sending a text all create data in transit. 

    How is This Data Protected?

    As your data moves across the internet or a private network, it passes through several servers, exchanging information (handshakes) before it reaches its destination. It isn't a single point A to point B "hello" "I got it" communication. This means opportunities for the wrong people to access your data.

    End-to-end encryption is recommended for secure data exchange. This ensures that data is encrypted so that only the sender and receiver can access it.

    how end to end data encryption works

    One Final Thought

    Customers are looking for solutions, and often it's the best explainer who earns the business.

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    . . .

    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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