I started my breathing, er, reading time today by digesting this post by Matt Zimmerman which analogizes (quite effectively) reading and writing to breathing air. His comment on deep understanding through sharing struck a cord with me.
I believe this is a key component of human interaction and the way our brains work.
When inside our heads, we condense information into shorthand. An Ubuntu developer has a deep understanding of what “maintainer scripts” means, and so we just use that term in our head as an assumption. When we make these assumptions, we must consciously decide to challenge them, and often then we challenge them with other assumptions.
Seth Godin’s recent post about responding to discussions about things you don’t understand has got me thinking about hiring people.
When involved with a staffing decision, I look for one trait in particular above all others. If you don’t know how to say “I don’t know”, and ask for an explanation or help, then you’re not really smart. You don’t have a good process for learning. You may have a mountain of knowledge in your head, but it is surrounded by a huge, impenetrable ego shield, and so, cannot ever be added to. Its like you took the sum of what you knew, and stuffed it into a snow globe. When people shake you up.. sure.. its pretty, but thats all there is to it.
I’d rather work with people who are open to having their entire belief system about certain subjects shattered by a better idea. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stick to your guns and assert your own ideas and beliefs. It just means, when challenged, be like the Zen Buddhist Aikido master and flow with the force of the attack, and when possible, use it to your advantage.