Kirk Wagner
President, Monarch Separators, A Water Standard Company

Richard Feynman was a brilliant, Nobel Prize-winning American physicist (1918-1988). His accomplishments abound. One notable accomplishment that I find particularly useful working in the Produced Water marketplace (where complexity and jargon thrive) is his technique for understanding and explaining a difficult concept, or say technology, in simple terms. His successful mental model was coined the Feynman Technique.

In its simplest form, the Feynman Technique is as follows:
1. Choose a concept.
2. Teach it to a young person.
3. Identify gaps in your explanation then return to the source material.
4. Review and simplify.

Take a concept such as Produced Water Treatment. Is it clear to you what it takes to “treat” Produced Water? Could you explain this to a 10 year old? Or try to teach it to a fresh, out of college petroleum engineer that is now responsible for your project’s technical bid tab? One gap you may find early in the teaching phase is how does one define “treat”? Does “treatment” in Texas’ Permian Basin mean the same thing as “treatment” in Colorado’s Denver-Julesburg or DJ Basin? Can you explain if “Gunbarrels” (I warned you about industry jargon) really meet “treatment” standards in both basins? I assure you when you go back to your source material, you will find complexity in your explanation that should be reviewed again and simplified.

At Water Standard and Monarch Separators we have always tried to simplify; to take a complex concept, break it down to digestible pieces and provide it back to our industry colleagues and customers in an intuitive way. Like many in the industry, we don’t always get it right but we have found that collaboration and the Feynman Technique are helpful in getting better at it. In future blog posts, we will attempt to continue the spirit of this last sentence. My colleagues will collaborate with the industry by writing about arious water-related concepts and technologies in this blog that we examine and use in our daily work.

My challenge to them and the reader is the same. While collaboration is easy, you will find that to simplify difficult concepts or technologies is hard. That is, unless you use the Feynman Technique.

Reach out if you’d like to talk further.