The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Wisdom in a sentence

When you set out to teach others what you’ve learned, you’ll find yourself confronted with two opposite ideas.

The wish to explain everything in detail to make sure nothing is missed.

The wish to summarize all the learning into a few guidelines or a sentence that catches it all.

None of both work well. It’s a combination of both that helps us learn and remember the learning.

The details help to grasp the concept and the ideas in the learning. The catch-it-all sentence helps to create one’s image of the concept. The work to be done when teaching or learning is to make sure that both, the details and the representation remain close enough.

Take for example one of Peter Drucker’s leadership lessons “leaders should be marketers”. The idea of that lesson is far away from suggesting that leaders should do the work a marketer does. It takes a central idea of the work of marketers (the focus on customers) and makes it a central part of the care leadership have for their organization. This short explanation only scratches the surface. But it does give an indication of the back and forth between the catchy information and the detailed part of learning.

A more thought-provoking example could be “steal like an artist”. The sentence is easy to remember and has a somewhat fun invitation to act. But. It’s meaning is not evident. It’s only with an understanding of the underlying concepts that its idea become usable. Things gain in clarity through knowing and experiencing the principles. continuously going back and forth between the image of the concept in the catch-it-all sentence and your own experience is what makes its full meaning becomes accessible.

There is no way around it: without an understanding of the underlying concepts. Without an understanding based on learning and own experience, it is not possible to see what one sentence wisdom is helping us see and do.


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