Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Joy of Grok

Doc Searls says:
The older I get, the more I realize that Being Right is way overrated. I'd much rather be understood.
I'm writing this because I understand, and hope to eventually dis-abiguate my understanding into a grok. There are a few mental threads flowing into this. Doc contributes the realization about wanting to be undestood, and the need to share common ideas. Will (almost said Wes..oops) contributes the joy of being grokked (by linkage from Doc).

Doug Buchanan talks about "Intellectual Technology" at length, which I'm only beginning to plow through for its bits of wisdom. He showed me that conversation isn't successful for knowledge transfer until it is completely mutually disambigous. (One hell of a big goal, which I think he promises to provide a path towards) I think of this as a shared grok.

Here's a story that I've used to help explain the difference between understanding and grokking something:

I went with friend on a trip to a hamfest with my friend Joe. We both bought some really killer rare-earth magnets. These things (since lost) were so powerful, you could put one inside your palm, and the other would stay on the back of it, no matter how hard you move your hands around. You know, the kind of things that'll snap together explosively, making nasty blood blisters if you happen to get in the way. We had fun with them, lots of fun, except when I found out I'd erased the magnetic stripe on my ATM card and was now temporarily broke.

On the way back from the hamfest, we stopped at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. A showcase of the lapidary arts that I intend to revisit at some point. On our way out, we read the plaque on a very large (multi-ton) silver copper boulder sitting outside. Joe decided on an impromptu science experiment, he retrieved his magnet from the car, and waved it over the exposed metallic part of the boulder. He was quite happy, and then had me do the same... it pulled back... there was a definite and very real drag on the magnet when it went over the very conductive face of the boulder. In that instant... I GROKKED eddy current. The very obscure physics of it suddenly came to life, in a very real way.

Being a science geek at heard, I had known the physics of eddy currents to some extent. Had Joe asked the right series of questions in advance of the encounter, I might have answered them correctly, and predicted the outcome... but nothing could replace the new and profound level of understanding that happened right there and then. It was a quantum leap in my level of getting it.

That is what I mean when I use the term Grok as a verb. Its a wonderful thing.

So, Doc is right, and I share some level of agreement with him through shared similar experience. I'm not sure if I've gotten all the ambiguities out, but I'm sure there are far fewer of them, at least on this concept. You have to get rid of ownership to be understood.

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