Collective Memory

June 19, 2020 Paul Emile Trudelle General Interest, In the News Tags: , , , 0 Comments

I like wine. But I don’t know a lot about wine. My friend, Henry, knows a lot about wine. When picking a wine, I often refer and defer to Henry’s extensive knowledge of wine. I outsource many of my wine buying decisions to Henry. I adopt Henry’s knowledge of wine as my own.

I also like to golf when I can. I am an ok golfer, but could be better. My friend, John, is a great golfer. He reads all of the magazines and watches all of the instructional videos. When we golf together, John shares that knowledge with me. I can take John’s learning and make it mine. (Unfortunately, my increased knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into lower golf scores.)

In a recent podcast by Michael Lewis called “Against the Rules”, (Season 2, Bonus episode), Michael Lewis interviews Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg. At one point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to a concept akin to a “collective memory”, whereby he outsources things he needs to know to friends and family. He says that his approach is that we should appoint experts to our friendship circle and outsource things we need to know to them. Their knowledge and experience becomes ours. He suggests that in personal and professional life, we should let others do the things that they can do better than us.

The context of the discussion was the running of Pushkin Industries, which is a podcasting company formed by Gladwell and Weisberg. Gladwell is the “ideas” person, whereas Weisberg is more of the operations person. Gladwell relies on Weisberg to manage the financial and day-to-day aspects of the business. This allows Gladwell to do what he does best.

There is a great lesson in Gladwell’s brief comment. Personally and professionally, surround yourself with smart people whom you respect and trust and who have a broad range of strengths and interests. Listen to them. Free yourself to rely on their knowledge and experience. Your life will be better and easier for it. (Although you may not become a much better golfer.)

Thanks for reading.

Paul Trudelle

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