Memorize or Look It Up, Which Type Are You?

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Memorize or Look It Up, Which Type Are You?

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Is your first action to memorize the information? Another choice is to plan to look it up again when needed. Are you one of these types or somewhere in-between?

Thirty plus years ago, it seemed the primary method of developing or honing a skill was to memorize the tactical components. This made experience so much more relevant.

The auto mechanic who knew the engine inside and out and could recite torque specifications for the crankshaft bearings, connecting rods, and cylinder head, had more value when compared with the less experienced oil-changer.

It is also true for the computer programmer who understood Control Language, Assembler, and Machine Code. Today, high-level software instructions shield most application developers from the lowest level instruction code.

It’s probably true in architecture, engineering, and even in health care, what once required deeper understanding and foundational skills is somehow replaced with higher-level, simpler instructions.

The school-age kid wonders about the need to learn the fundamentals of math when there is a always a calculator in hand.

Does it matter?

Memorize or Look It up

Like many things in life there are arguments either way.

Do you only have to learn enough to be able to look it up? Is that true for a heart surgeon, the bridge builder, or the CPA?

The most simplistic argument is, what happens if you don’t have access to look it up?

What if you don’t have the calculator, what if you don’t have YouTube, or Google? What if?

How will you learn how to do the next thing? Will creativity automatically develop, or does it only happen with those who have the curiosity to ask a deeper question?

Does history matter? What is the historical perspective?

It seems to me that fundamentals still matter. If we only know what we can look up then there isn’t much value in your contribution.

Studying, learning, and memorizing are the ground work for employee value.

Everything else might just be a robot.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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