Sunday, December 23, 2007

Synthesis vs Analysis

On the interview trail with R-, someone recalled one of the most annoying interview questions they received "What are you better at, Synthesis or Analysis." But also on the trail, R- has noted, and I concur that a difficult question posed by an astute interviewer is a good opportunity to learn something about yourself.

I remember learning about Blooms' Taxonomy of Knowledge in Mrs O'Neil's 4th grade Honors Reading class. (actually, it wasn't Honors back then, but first GAT for gifted and talented and later ESP for who knows what, but I vaguely recall thinking ESP meant extra special people...) Kind of a silly thing to teach a 10 year old, but I remembering memorizing the 6 modes of learning, I can still hear the class chanting them in my head "Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Synthesis, Analysis, Evaluation." Lots of big words, which really didn't mean anything to me until years later. But I remember trying hard to memorize them as we were to be tested on the words. I remember especially working hard on the word "taxonomy" which I had never seen before, and was such a strange arcane word, though I liked how it rolled around in my head even though I had no idea what it meant. I still like the word taxonomy, cooler than "typology" which means much the same thing, and sociologist types like to use.

But anyway, as to the question, I think for me it is easy, I do both, but synthesis is clearly what I am good at. What makes me unique from my colleagues is that I like putting together ideas from vastly disparate sources. Using my degrees that range from engineering to education to political science to math. Pulling together strands from music and philosophy. Probably excessively so, but I enjoy it. I never called it "synthesis" before. But I guess that's exactly what it is. Just took 20 years for that particular 4th grade lesson to sink in.
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