Knowing vs Understanding

In the first month of my job as a Product Manager, I gave many presentations on what we were building and why we were building them.

It was easy to explain what we were building but I had a hard time explaining why we choose to build them. I knew why but I didn’t understand why. There’s a difference between the two.

Knowing is surface level. For example, you know Maxwell’s equations. This information was likely presented on a silver platter in a textbook or a lecture.

Understanding is deeper than that. For example, you can derive Maxwell’s equations and explain every step. Here, you stumbled through the problem, tried it on your own, and came to the conclusion yourself with a bit of guidance. This knowledge is earned. And you can emphasize with others that have the same problem.

As the weeks went by at my job, I started to shift from knowing to understanding why. I started to talk to customers, solve customer support tickets, and I looked at the data. I started to get a holistic view on the strengths and weaknesses of our product.

This difference between knowing and understanding is what separates good writing from great writing.

Good writing tells you the problem and solution. Great writing shows you the problem and solution.

November 27, 2020

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