You don´t get it

WIRED magazine asked a neuroscientist to explain what a connectome is to 5 different levels of understanding: 5 year-old, 13 year-old, college student, neuroscience grad student and an expert neuroscientist. Check out how he does it:

I believe you can only do this when you truly understand the subject. I think we can all agree on that. The question I cannot get my head around is: is that the only condition to be able to do it? I mean, is it possible that someone understands fully a subject but still cannot give an explanation at different levels? In more simple words: is this a skill?

Probably yes. I face this challenge constantly at work. I need to understand topics that I know nothing about in a very short timeframe. Some people are very capable of introducing the topic in a way that I can grasp. Some others don't. When I don't get it, I've gone from: god, I shouldn't be doing this job, I'm just not ready for it, to: this guy just doesn´t understand it. There's a third option here: someone doesn't have the communication skills to abstract a topic and to simplify it to the right level of understanding.

So while it is tempting to stick to: if you can't teach it, you don't get it, it is probably safer to say: if you get it, then make sure you can also teach it. And certainly the ability to teach may well be one of the most important skills required to sell (and, yes, we may simplify many of the things we do as a form of selling.)

See you next week!