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How to rapidly upskill yourself to be an expert on anything!

Found out you’ve got some extra time on your hands, what will you do with it?

Access to knowledge has never been more abundant nor more in-depth. Right now, we’ve got plenty of opportunities to learn online, much of it freely available, and you can google almost any topic.

Good leaders effectively transfer what’s inside their heads to others so they can properly get on with the job of leading. Leaders who are so-called technical experts sometimes struggle with sharing their knowledge for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is they can't explain what they do (over-complicated) or it will take too long to do so. To them, it's easier to keep doing it their way. I believe this promotes the out-dated command-and-control leadership style of telling rather than teaching. So nothing ever changes.

The real value of a technical expert is the ability to share their knowledge with others. The people they serve will admire and appreciate them for it. We always place more value on being taught rather than told. One of our essential motivators is skill mastery (see Daniel Pink's book Drive). The other benefit is feedback. A different perspective offers an opportunity to explore or improve.

This article outlines one method that will help you rapidly up-skill your learning and communication abilities while the world is in lock-down.

The Illusion of Communication

Many leaders and consultants often struggle to explain complex concepts adequately. When people feel like they are “baffled by the science”, this is far from ideal. Confused employees walk-away assuming the “expert” is either correct or just do what they think they should be doing. Here we have the illusion of communication - just because you explained it doesn’t mean they “got it”. It’s a frequent failure of translating intentions into actions.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw

For some excellent examples, think about how leaders have recently articulated the benefits and methods of “flattening the curve”. The most powerful messages have been concise and straightforward without scientific gobbledygook. Both parents and children can readily interpret and understand social isolation what-to-dos without knowing all the technical aspects of how a virus jumps between humans.

Communication is the essential art of encoding a message so it can be effectively decoded at the other end. There are a few steps involved in processing information so it's really important the communicator has their house in order.

So now we find ourselves in an economic situation where upskilling and re-skilling will be critical to both working our way through this messy situation while becoming a more effective leader at the same time.

How to Rapidly Learn Anything

Here’s the deal - if you cannot describe an idea or concept in simple terms, then you do not understand it well enough. It’s on you. It’s your job to be the expert communicator.

As adults, we often make incorrect assumptions about the cognitive ability of the person sitting opposite us or the team in front of us. And, besides, we do love to over-complicate things occasionally.

To address this problem, Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman developed the Feynman Technique. Using his technique, Richard Feynman could explain mathematically dense concepts in quantum physics using everyday language and analogies.

The Feynman Technique is a mental model that helps you teach someone else a complex topic in simple terms, so you retain what you learned, you deepen your understanding, and you quickly zero in on any gaps in your knowledge.

The Feynman Technique

Here are Richard Feynman’s four steps to becoming an expert on just about anything.

  1. Pick a topic that’s of interest. Research it. Write down everything you learn on one A3 page using bullet points and simple diagrams.

  2. Pretend you are teaching your chosen topic to a child. How could you explain a complex idea in simple terms? Practice your explanations on someone who knows nothing about your topic.

  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge. Revisit your problem areas by undertaking more research. 

  4. Simplify concepts and find useful analogies to strengthen your understanding and ability to communicate complexity.

Now pick an interesting topic and get on with it

You’ve got the time, what will you do with it?

You’ve got plenty of opportunities to learn online, much of it freely available, and you can google almost any topic. We live in the information age after all.

Here are 450 Ivy League online courses you can take online now for free.

Your ability to translate complex concepts and ideas into simple terms will stand you apart as a leader and a communicator. Use this time to your best advantage.

Let's get to work!

Thanks for reading to here.

I hope life's great, Bruce