Cheat Sheet

This week’s trek is inspired by the Feynman Technique. Developed by Nobel winning physicist, Richard Feynman, this technique helps you simplify concepts so anyone can understand them.

You know that moment when you're trying to explain something and all you get in response is a bunch of blank stares?

These situations are often followed by a lot of frantic questions and disapproving looks as people try to sort out what the heck you're trying to say. Working out your thoughts in this fashion isn't always a bad thing but in high pressure situations when you know you've got short attention spans to cater to, you have to find a way to make your point as easy to digest as possible. 

Introducing Your Cheat Sheet Exercise

What It Is
A 30-minute gut check to make sure you actually know what the heck you're talking about before a big presentation or meeting.

Why We Love It 
Sometimes you think you know a topic well and then you find yourself unable to make a single coherent point when you are asked to explain it to others. This exercise forces you to distill a concept into its simplest form - via a good old cheat sheet - to make sure you really know what you are talking about before presenting it to others.

How It Works
1. Identify a concept you need to explain and really understand. This could be an issue you want your boss to take note of, a customer insight you want your team to absorb, or an idea you need to present at a big meeting.

2. Take 30 minutes and grab a piece of paper and put the name of your concept at the top. Then, imagine that you are creating a cheat sheet for an eight-year-old on this topic. Using plain language (no business jargon) define the concept, draw specific aspects out, and provide examples of your concept in practice. 

3. As you write everything out, note any areas that tripped you up or that you were shaky on. Then, spend a few minutes reviewing your notes or sources on each of those areas to make sure your understanding is solid.

4. Next, review your cheat sheet once again and circle any jargon or complicated terms. Force yourself to rework those sections by incorporating simple language that a kid would relate to. 

5. Finally, go back to the slides or talking points you had planned for your meeting and see how they compare to your cheat sheet. Look for places to simplify and rework accordingly. 

Source: Farnam Street

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