Intellectual self-sufficiency

Last summer Jon Udell of Infoworld had dinner with local techie Phil Windley. Phil explained that when he helps his wife with computer questions, it looks like he knows all the answers. He actually doesn’t; he just knows how to find the answers. “What I’m actually doing is figuring things out on the fly.” (The Tacit Dimension of Tech Support)

This is a principle that Brian and I have discussed and call “intellectual self-sufficiency.” It’s a matter of being able to search out answers to your questions by yourself. It’s an important part of independent thought and truth seeking.

If you’re hiring, how did the candidates for your job learn what they know? Can they teach themselves more?

I don’t believe good grades in school are half as important as knowing how to find more information, how to teach yourself something, and how to discern between sources. For some people, school gives them a fish (a piece of paper that gets them their first job) while for others it teaches them how to fish. And some people learn to fish with no formal schooling at all.

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