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Richard Feynman

What to say about Richard Feynman? A bongo playing, co-Nobel prize winner for the theory of the interaction between light and matter which altered the way the world understood the nature of waves and particles. He was once described by the physicist Freeman Dyson as "half genius, half buffoon", only for Freeman to later correct his view to be "all genius, all buffoon".

Why I find Richard Feynman so inspirational is he took nothing for granted, and where he saw the central mystery or conundrum of a situation, he went for it head-on. Moreover, he then went on to explain the reality in ways both the layperson and the specialist could understand. Feynman was the exemplar “anti-fool” who believed that if you can’t explain something perhaps you don’t yet fully understand it.

In this sense, Feynman was the perfect exponent of challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo where such “wisdom” is anything but. He called out the ridiculousness of holding onto a belief where the belief is not backed by reality. Feynman used data, unrelenting questioning and problem solving to first understand and then define how the complex, real world works. Proponents of the status quo using well crafted, highly technical but ultimately specious arguments were shown for what they were. This aspect of Feynman’s work clearly has a place in solving business problems!  I also love this quote:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

(We have a related meme here, "Intercept the subconscious")

I must have read Richard Feynman’s book “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” a dozen times. I’d recommend it! Not only as a fascinating read on the topic of how quantum particles behave but as a peek into the mind of a stellar problem solver. Or, if you only have an hour to spare, this is as good a quantum whodunit as you'll find: "Feynman on the Double Slit Experiment".