Blog Post # 167 – Field Reports

Those who know through experience versus those who know through reading.

When I was young, my mother was on the board of our local library.

We read tons and tons of books and my mother instilled a love of reading in my sisters and me at a very young age.

Books offer us the opportunity to enter another’s experience and see the world through their eyes.

We can learn a lot by reading.

But when it comes to teaching others, there is a huge difference between those who teach what they have read and those who teach based on their experiences and their knowledge based on years of solving a particular kind of problem.

I was reminded of this yesterday when my wife and I attended a conference on immigration waivers in Chicago. Waivers are the way that people who may be inadmissible to the U.S. can get that inadmissibility “waived” by the government.

The first panel featured three speakers who obviously live in the immigration trenches and fight the good fight every day. They relayed stories of their experiences and provided plenty of real world applications of the complex immigration rules that we all need to know.

A few speakers on the other panels, however, simply read out the rules and discussed a few reported cases.

I felt like I learned significantly less in these sessions.

My friend Dean talks about these two approaches to teaching as the difference between field reports and book reports.

Field reports are from those people out in the field, doing the actual work that is being discussed.

Book reports can be read by anyone who reads up on the topic and then spreads that knowledge to others at a speaking event.

Both can serve a purpose.

But there is simply no substitute from hearing field reports on a topic that the speaker has mastered through experience.

Well, I guess there is one substitute – conducting field reports of our own. Experience is the greatest teacher of all.