A quick note on Information versus Knowledge:
Recently I had an interesting conversation with an Italian PhD Nuclear Physicist who now works in Finance. It reminded me of an email I see from students at least a few times a year. It’s something that comes up over and over that I summarize as Information versus Knowledge, the google+wikipedia = information as education versus the educator-driven what/when/how to spark learning approach to education.
a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.The entire word list for Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Suess
This word list is remarkable for its brevity. At some point in high school we hear that Shakespeare only used 75 words. That is not true – just high school myth, but the concept did lead me to an experiment when I was a wee lass. Could I be better understood by limiting my vocabulary? Hey, the SAT was over; I didn’t need all of those words…. So I focused on simplifying my speaking style in order to ensure the clarity of my metaphors. Overall it worked well. If you can’t communicate your ideas in a way the listener can understand, you fail. The bigger your vision, the more important that concept is.
Sure, I got busted for casually using archipelago one night at a keg party – but hey, some times a specific word is still the best choice.
The question is, do you need an elaborate vocabulary? Vocabulary is just a tool. Having a large vocabulary is akin to having a lot of information.
Simply having a tool, the information, does not mean you know how to use it artfully. Consider how basic that word list above is. You already know those words even if English is not your first language. You have that information. You don’t need a fancier set of words to create a more impactful piece. Just as,
E = mc^2
is incredibly simple formula. There’s really nothing to it. Two variables, solve for the third. BUT! But, it isn’t the formula that is so spectacular. It’s that we have a way to explain an other-worldly concept, Energy, in incredibly simple terms. What it took to create such a simple formula was depth of understanding and humility. Recognizing that very complex things may be comprised of very simple things while being willing to find those simple things is humbling.
With deep understanding of foundation concepts, you can determine if a complex problem needs a complex solution – sometimes – or if your complex problem is really a set of simple problems currently masked as one beast. Take the tools you already have, endeavor to understand them as their very essence and then . . .
Simplicity is not the answer to everything. But adding complexity is very rarely the answer to anything.