The knowledge jigsaw
Most of my colleagues don’t read books. They are software developers in desparate need of improving their skills yet they try to get by with muddling through with what they already know or relying on the boss to provide the information they need. This has puzzled and frustrated me for some time. If they were using some other means to learn – blogs, personal contacts, seminars then I could understand but they don’t do that either. Yet when I talk to them they all profess to wanting to improve their skills and knowledge.
One common aspect that came up in conversations is that they seem to expect a book to be both directly relevant to them and to answer whatever specific problem they are having at the moment. Of course, this is rarely the case. When they read one book, do not understand the context and can’t apply whatever the book describes directly they dismiss it as not relevant and a waste of time. This then puts them off technical books in general.
To try and explain why they should read I now use the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle. Reading an article or book is like picking up a single piece of the puzzle. Sometimes you can see something recognizable on the piece and see how it fits. More often the picture on the piece only makes sense when it is seen in the context of the surrounding pieces.
To understand most technical books you need to understand the context. You get the context through experience and through reading widely.