2006  July 23

Law 4: Learn

Knowledge makes everything simpler.

> Excerpted from Pages 33-34 of my book, The Laws of Simplicity


Operating a screw is deceptively simple. Just mate the grooves atop the screw's head to the appropriate tip—slotted or Phillips—of a screwdriver. What happens next is not as simple, as you may have noted while observing a child or a woefully sheltered adult turning the screwdriver in the wrong direction.

     My children remember this rule through a mnemonic taught by my spouse, "righty tighty, lefty loosy." Personally I use the analogy of a clock, and map the clockwise motion of the hands to the positive penetration curve of the screw. Both methods are subject to a second layer of knowledge: knowing right versus left, or knowing what direction the hands of a clock turn. Thus operating a screw is not as simple as it appears. And it's such an apparently simple object!

     So while the screw is a simple design, you need to know which way to turn it. Knowledge makes everything simpler . This is true for any object, no matter how difficult. The problem with taking time to learn a task is that you often feel you are wasting time, a violation of the third Law of time. We are well aware of the dive-in-head-first approach—"I don't need the instructions, let me just do it." But in fact this method often takes longer than following the directions in the manual.

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Copyright 2005 - 2014, John Maeda