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  • Raghav Sand

Must Know, Good to Know and Need to Know

Curiosity: an eager wish to know or learn about something. Whatever progress humans have made so far, it is the outcome of an urge to attain and apply knowledge. And, this trend will continue as long as there is life. Finding solutions to problems and trying to create convenience has made life easier, safer and faster for one and all. Innovators seldom fail to create a fortune for themselves and their backers. Whether it was the invention of printing press, telephone, or perfecting the art of manufacturing goods on an industrial scale, when science and commerce align, the world gets a blockbuster product or service.

Albert Einstein summed up the importance of curiosity in an article published in Life Magazine in 1955. Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”

Must Know!

Facts and information can be broadly classified in three categories. Firstly, we have information that we ‘must know’ in order to survive and thrive in everyday life. The ‘must know’ category information includes knowledge about rights and obligations as a citizen. It also covers knowledge about our chosen field of work or vocation. It is not difficult to comprehend that, any shortcomings in this category, can make our life mediocre at the least and miserable at the most.

Good to Know!

Secondly, we have facts and information which are ‘good to know’. Under this category, we put general awareness, which may or my not be directly related to our field of work. Those who are curious about interdisciplinary knowledge are also known as generalists. By having expert knowledge in their own domain and working knowledge about other fields, generalists make good managers. They are made part of teams for their expertise in connecting the dots.

As the name suggests, this skill set is ‘good to know’ only when one has a tight grip on at least one of the core activities. For example, a finance professional, who apart from being good with numbers, also knows a thing or two about construction related activities, is likely to do better than someone who has knowledge about only one of the two disciplines. There is no substitute for expert knowledge, but a jack of all trades has a definite edge over others.

Similarly, an advertising professional, who can also contribute in graphic design will be valued more than someone who is just good with marketing campaigns or coining catchy advertising jingles.

Take a moment to grasp the essence of being a generalist. If you have done well in the past, or you are doing well at the moment, chances are, you have knowingly or unknowingly, read and learned about more than one skill. And, if you are someone who wishes to do well in the future, its time you start looking at the bigger picture. When you are able to place more pieces of a jigsaw puzzle appropriately, the self-realization about the importance of ‘good to know’ information is illuminating.

Need to Know!

Lastly, we have information that should be shared and sought on a ‘need to know’ basis. As per the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘need to know’ means, denoting or relating to a principle or policy of telling people only what is deemed necessary for them to know in order to carry out a task effectively. You only tell people the facts they need to know at the time they need to know them, and nothing more. Information shared and sought on a ‘need to know’ basis is prevalent in matters national security, technology transfer, corporate strategy, etc. In some instances, facts and information about personal life should be exchanged on a ‘need to know’ basis, and not otherwise.

The consequences of not safeguarding information that should shared on a ‘need to know’ basis can be calamitous. What would happen if your company’s product development and marketing strategy is known to just about anyone? Chances are, company’s competitors may formulate a plan and introduce a similar product or service. In such a case, the return on investment of your company will get affected negatively. It is for this reason, individuals working on product development are almost always covered under non-disclosure agreements.

To better understand the concept of ‘need to know’ basis information, let us take the example of military operations in the country. The location of strategic military equipment, details about troop movements and research and development of missiles and weapons are kept under wraps for a reason. By revealing too much about military preparedness, we may give our adversary an upper hand. When the military might of a country is paraded on a chosen day of national importance, no sensible nation will put everything up for display. Nation’s defence and intelligence establishment will pick and choose only those things which serve the dual purpose of boosting the morale of citizens and at the same time not revealing all the cards to the enemy.

One Last Time

To summarise, leave no stone unturned to attain knowledge you ‘must know’ to excel in your chosen field of work. Secondly, make a sincere effort to channelise your curiosity to be more than what you are at the moment. And last but not the least, seek and share information that is categorised as ‘need to know’ basis, after being fully aware of its consequences.

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