Using the Feynman Technique

As a process for acquiring new knowledge or skills, learning is at the forefront of success in academia or business. Every field relies on great learners to acquire and advance knowledge, ideas, and skills. As any student knows only too well, excelling in education requires good learning skills, which few people are naturally born with.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough

Albert Einstein

However, the use of mental models has gone a long way into turning the average person into a great learner. If you struggle to understand difficult concepts, then you are not alone. Many highly successful people got to where they are by finding creative ways to overcome learning challenges. The use of mental models is one of the simplest and most effective ways of mastering a complex subject in no time.

What Are Mental Models?

Mental models are psychological representations of your thought processes about how the world works. It’s a powerful visualization tool which mentally maps real, imaginary, or hypothetical situations to make sense of how things work or relate to one another.

Different types of mental models can help you think better, be more creative, solve problems and learn faster. One of the most useful mental models is the Feynman technique. It was created by the brilliant physicist Richard Feynman, whose pioneering work in quantum electrodynamics made a lasting impact on particle physics, quantum computing, and nanotechnology.

Richard Feynman was one of the most brilliant physicists of all time. He was given the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work on the interaction of light and matter. Richard Feynman was also a philosopher, an eloquent teacher, and a great thinker, whose admirers included Albert Einstein.

Bill Gates referred to Feynman as “the greatest teacher I never had.” Many others admired his ability to explain complex concepts in a simple and easy to understand manner. Feynman’s lectures were mostly aimed at students with no prior knowledge of physics, using his unique ability to remove the mystery from complex scientific principles.

The Feynman Technique

It is often said that if you cannot explain anything in simple terms, then you do not understand it completely. This is the logic behind the Feynman technique. Anyone can apply this mental model to practically any learning exercise.

The Feynman technique consists of four simple steps, as follows:

Step 1: Select Your Concept

The first step is to choose the topic or concept that you want to study. Take a blank paper and write the topic at the top of the page.

Step 2: Pretend You Are Explaining It To Someone Else

In the simplest way possible, write down an explanation of the concept as if you are teaching it to a new student. Richard Feynman preferred using an explanation that a five-year-old can understand. By doing this, you will have a deeper understanding of the concept and identify gaps in your learning. This is step will pinpoint areas where you do not have a firm grasp of the concept.

Step 3: Refer To Your Source Material Whenever You Get Stuck

Every time you cannot explain an idea, go back to your reference books or teacher and learn it all over again. Keep doing this until you can sufficiently explain the concept in simple terms.

Step 4: Create Analogies

If your explanation is too lengthy, wordy, or confusing, create a simpler one or better yet, use analogies. Analogies help explain a concept using examples that are easy to relate to and understand.

Benefits Of The Feynman Technique

  1. Learn Faster: The Feynman technique will enable you to simplify complex ideas, making it easier to learn difficult subjects faster.
  2. Be More efficient: Countless students spend hours in the library trying to master complicated concepts unsuccessfully. This proven technique can help you save time in your studies, reducing the period needed to understand anything.
  3. Be More Productive: Increasing your learning ability will make you more productive at work or in your studies. You will master new skills and gain knowledge to help you increase your output.
  4. Be More successful: Achieving higher grades is the first step to success in your career. A stellar academic record can open many doors and help you gain that coveted job position.
  5. Be a Better communicator: The Feynman technique is indispensable when it comes to explaining difficult concepts to clients, colleagues, or students. Possessing this ability makes you a better communicator, especially if you are in marketing or leadership.

The Feynman technique is a useful tool for mastering hard to understand concepts. Its simplicity makes it widely applicable to scientific topics as well as everyday learning challenges. Increase your creativity, productivity, and knowledge by making it your preferred learning tool.

What study techniques do you use when getting ready for an IT certification exam? Or even getting ready to give a presentation to a local user group. Please let me know on Twitter, and thanks for reading.