The Transfer Model is Flawed

We often imagine that education or communication is the transfer of an idea from one person to another, or others.

That’s not accurate — there is something far more complex going on.

Communication creates something new. It actually forms a new idea in someone else’s mind. The new idea is not a pure carbon copy of the original idea — while hopefully similar, it is literally an entirely new thought.

This is critical! If we have the concept of communication wrong, we’ll cause ourselves all kinds of problems.

Just as we can never tell for sure if everyone sees green the same way, or if we’ve just each independently learned what “green” is based on our own individual colour reception, so it is with ideas.

Ideas don’t exist in isolation.

They interact with the self that hosts them. Just for starters, they are influenced by mood, memories, associations, relationships, fears and hopes. The more complicated the idea, the more connections it provokes.

Beginning to conceptualise communication as something new may begin to heighten the respect and care we give to it, rather than tacitly assuming “we told them so they know”.

Without dialogue, we can never know if the ideas that our ideas inspired are compatible, or even similar.

So then, we should always strive to be clear from the outset. But we also need to realise that the beginning is only the beginning. We can only be sure that we’ve been clear when we start to recognise the ideas which come back to us.