Knowledge vs. Logical reasoning; Quizzing vs. Consulting

When I started my quizzing career around 12 years ago, I was good at it because I knew more than a lot of others. As a child, my parents had made me mug up a few huge “general knowledge” books. Apart from this, I started reading the newspaper at quite an early age. And questions in school quizzes being of the type “who holds the record for most goals in a single world cup football match?” or “what is abhimanyu’s mother’s name?” (I answered both these questions on my way to 2nd prize in the KQA Lone Kid Quiz in 1994), my additional general knowledge helped.

I managed like this for as long as I was in school. Can’t exactly call that part of my career as “successful” but I did win the odd quiz here and there. Quizzing still continued to be a lot of knowledge. And the Deccan Herald did help me in no small measure.

I received my first wake-up call when I went to IITM. It was the “lit soc main quiz”. Most of the questions there seemed to go way over my head. Didn’t make too many in the prelims. However, when the answers were given out, I felt a strange sense of familiarity. There was some noticeable connection between the answer and different parts of the question. The answer didn’t directly follow from the question. However, one could work out the answer from different clues in the question.

It was a new paradigm of quizzing. College quizzing was a whole new cup of tea. So was open quizzing, as I discovered at an open KQA quiz after my first year at IIT. It was not about knowledge alone any more. You had to reason out the answer!

Quizzing, as it happens to the south of the Vindhyas, is a mix of knowledge and logical reasoning. Just knowing a lot of facts is not enough to win. You have to be effective in applying the facts you know to the stuff given in a question and thus work out an answer. And a good quetion is one which provides just enough clues to arrive at the answer.

Of course, this is not to underplay the importance of knowledge. Knowledge, of course, is essential, but it is not sufficient! I personally have found myself at a disadavantage at a lot of quizzes since I’m not too interested in English movies, fiction and art. (to name a few domains) And you are supposed to acquire knowledge as you go along.

To explain with an example, consider the following question I put in the recent IIMB Open Quiz. (not sure if this is the best example though)

Connect the member of parliament from Baramati (Maharashtra) to the legislator from Mundhal Khurd (Haryana).

Now, anyone who has been reasonably following Indian politics knows that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has been representing Baramati for ages. Now, if it’s a good quiz, you know that the answer can be worked out. And that in itself can be a major clue.

You think of why Sharad Pawar has been in the news recently. He has done nothing significant as agriculture minister of late. Neither has his NCP made any waves of late. So what could it be? Hey, wait! He recently became president of BCCI. Could the other guy be someone in his team? Or could it be the guy he beat? My teammate tells me that the guy who lost the BCCI elections is a congress politician. And someone else says he’s Bansi Lal’s son, so Haryana fits in. You recollect his name and put it down: Ranbir Singh Mahendra.

I hope you are getting the drift. Quizzing is not just a knowledge sport any more. It is a lot of logical reasoning. And a good quizzer is one who can combine a lot of knowledge with excellent reasoning skills and who can think on his feet. Of course, I’m referring to South Indian senior quizzing here.

Let us step back for a moment from quizzing now. Campus placements are going to happen a month from now. Among others, we are going to have some of the world’s best consultancy companies coming down to campus. And I’ll be telling them that I’m a stud; great at problem solving; have reasonably good communication skills; great at logical reasoning; very willing to learn, etc. And based on all this, they should be giving me a job. In effect, I’ll be pitching my reasoning skills to become a consultant.

If (god willing) I do land the job, the firm will see me as a guy who’s great at Logical Reasoning. I’ll be staffed on different kinds of projects where I’ll be given domain knowledge and asked to use my Reasoning skills to come up with solutions. And along the way, I also pick up a little bit of knowledge.

As my career in consultancy progresses, I’ll soon be asked to specialize. I’ll be asked to choose a domain where I’ll become an expert. I’m told that senior consultants command such a high billing rate mainly due to their domain knowledge. My firm will start considering me to be mainly a knowledge resource! My reasoning skills won’t matter any more – I have my analysts for that kind of work!

So we have two distinct fields. One a profession. The other (for most people) a hobby. In the hobby, you are good because of your knowledge. You keep picking up knowledge but soon realize it won’t help unless you also build reasoning skills. In the other, you start off with great reasoning skills. And pick up knowledge as you go along. And the knowledge becomes so important that you’ll have to give up on your reasoning.

The common thread: You keep learning new things. You keep picking up knowledge as you go along.

The difference: In one case, knowledge and reasoning compete. As your knowledge goes up, your reasoning loses significance. In the other, the two are complementary. The extra knowledge you gain is of know use unless you get the extra edge in reasoning!

And yeah, there are quite a few people who have made it good in both these fields!

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