When the truth doesn’t matter

You wanna know what's in the present, don't you?

Imagine that you’re sitting in a committee meeting and a parcel is delivered. Delighted and surprised, you open the wrapping… only to discover that the parcel is a bomb. A bomb with 00:02:14 on the counter.


Clearly, there’s no time to bring in anyone else. It’s you and the other committee members, who have unanimously put you in charge of bomb disarmament. (You opened the parcel, after all.)

The others do want to help, though, and so they provide you with information.

“The detonation velocity of C4 is 28,900km/hour,” one advises you.

“TNT stands for trinitrotoluene.” adds another.

“Alfred Nobel, inventer of dynamite, was so appalled by the legacy he was leaving that he created the Nobel Prize.”

“C4 is not detonated by physical shocks.”

“But pure nitroglycerine is.”

Every single thing they’ve said is true.

Does it help you disarm the bomb? No.

Does it improve your chances of survival? No.

Does it improve the quality of the last 2 minutes of your life? Not much.

The conclusion: just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s useful.

The more you know, the more problematic this becomes.

On your first day of study you might learn three pieces of information, all true and all useful. Ratio of facts known to usable facts: 100%.

By the time you’re an expert, the ratio drops. Dramatically. You might know 1,538 bits of information that relate to your current situation, but only a dozen of those facts can change the outcome significantly. (Like knowing which wire to cut, for instance.) Your ratio is now 0.0078%.

This, in short, is why no-one can be more annoying and unhelpful than an expert.

The most important duty of an expert…

…is to be painfully ruthless about the information you share.

You have to use that expertise to filter the gigantic piles of facts into something much more meaningful: data.

And thence, action.

Because otherwise you’re not an expert. You’re Wikipedia.

And also exploded.

Want some help finding the blue wire of your business? DIY Magnificence is there for you with a pair of pliers and a reassuring grin.

Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

7 thoughts on “When the truth doesn’t matter

  1. The most important duty of an expert…is to be painfully ruthless about the information you share. 
    So fucking true!! 

    Well done on articulating things so well lovely. 

  2. I’m 100% with you on this, but it’s a bit trickier than that.  How do experts filter that knowledge?  To be more specific: how do folks writing to help others synthesize what they know into useful chunks?  It definitely should be done; the hard part is figuring out  how.

    1. Context. Objectives. Transformation. Outcomes.

      If you know those things, then you can trim and synthesize – everything that supports the change you want to make is in, and everything else, no matter how nifty, is edited out.

      Which is hard, of course.

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