Management by Semantics

Richard Feynman's father told him an interesting story about words and meanings.

See that bird? It's a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it's called a halzenfugel, and in Chinese they call it a chung ling and even if you know all those names for it, you still know nothing about the bird. You only know something about people; what they call the bird.

The more people I deal with, the more I think this is rampant in the business world. People know business terms. They know business ideas in the sense that they know what they are called, and what their definitions are, but they really don't understand them. They can't explain them or apply them.

Thinking that you know and understand something when you really only know what it is called is exactly the type of thing that gets incompetent people promoted. And it's probably more dangerous than not knowing the terminology in the first place.

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