Invisible Walls

Invisible Walls

"...simplify, simplify.” —Henry Thoreau

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

According to Michael J Cohen’s recent article, "The Physicist Richard Feynman was famous as a student for redoing many of physics’ early experiments himself to build a foundational understanding of the field. By mastering these first principles, Feynman often saw things that others did not in quantum mechanics, computing, and nuclear physics, earning him the Nobel Prize in 1965.”

Feynman obtained deep knowledge that allowed him to simplify his field.

Albert Einstein said that you can architect different levels of knowledge. He laid out the five levels of intellect like this:

  1. Smart
  2. Intelligent
  3. Brilliant
  4. Genius
  5. Simplify

If it takes you an hour to get to the point of what it is you’re actually doing and solving, you must rethink how you communicate your idea. And perhaps, you need to study deeper so you can condense and communicate that in a simpler fashion.

Elon Musk is famous for taking complex problems and simplfying them so that his teams can solve these engineering feats of impossibility.

Cohen continues:

The seed of each idea was planted by calculating what physics dictates is possible, not extrapolating from the status-quo. This defined the arena of possibility using little more than high-school math.

Musk is trying to spread the word. He explained his thinking to Tesla’s shareholders as it applied to the design of the Gigafactory in 2016. Instead of extracting tiny gains in the design of the car (a highly-engineered product where most cost and material savings were squeezed out long ago), Musk turned his attention to the factory where he said the same amount of effort yielded an order of magnitude more results.

“Once you explain this to a first-rate engineer, the light bulb goes on,” said Musk. “Lots of engineers don’t realize this is possible. They think there’s like a wall. They’re basically operating according to these invisible walls and we’re in the process of explaining those walls don’t exist. And I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.”

Where do invisible walls exist in your current thinking?

Take those walls, study them and then begin to break them down.

That way you can communicate what you do simply. And solve “impossible" problems along the way.

(photo via ahisgett)