Peter Morville recently gave me this piece of advice: Don’t wait too long to start speaking and writing. He said that when he wrote the Polar Bear book he was explaining Information Architecture to himself as well as his audience. At this point in his career he is an expert and would struggle to clearly describe the base fundamentals.
The problem is, at the beginning of your career speaking/writing is terrifying! I am at the very beginning of my career as an Information Architect. When I write or talk it is the first impression I give the community – and first impressions matter.
Although I highly valued Peter’s advice, I couldn’t understand its true value until its benefit was demonstrated to me at the pool today.
In high school I was a pretty darn good swimmer and coached all skill levels, even my peers. In short, I knew my stuff. Then I broke my wrist. Many surgeries and years down the road and today was the first day I rejoined the pool. The strangest thing happened. My muscles began telling me gobs of information I had never known before. I was out of shape and they were burning. I had a sudden knowledge of exactly what part of my forearm contributed to the first 10% of pull when doing forward crawl. I could change my kick to something I knew, at an academic level, was less efficient and FEEL that difference in my muscles. As an expert, I could have never described these things to a young swimmer. Knowing what it should feel like when you haven’t done it a million times is invaluably helpful to know as a teacher.
Now, the correlation between swimming and talking about IA breaks down when you consider that in swimming I had the advantage of years of experience to interpret this new, novice, information. But, awareness of process is worth a lot.
With Peter’s wise advice, and swimming clearly illustrating its merit, it is clear that this is the time in one’s career to be at least trying to write and speak. I can examine what I don’t know, notice how I learn it, and then share that finding.
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