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Posted by Simon Parke, 09 July 2018, 10.30am

You won’t be surprised to know that the Germans have a word for it.

It doesn’t sound polite - and it isn’t.

The German word Fachidiot – pronounced ‘Fack-ID-yot’ – refers to someone who has great subject knowledge in one area… but who doesn’t know or care what happens around them.

A Fach is a compartment in a larger piece of furniture, (like a small drawer in a cabinet) but in a figurative sense, can also mean specific knowledge in a broad field, as in civil engineering, or a niche artistic gift, such as a singer’s tone or vocal range.

And an idiot is the same in German as in English.

So the word describes someone with a particular knowledge-base, interest or skill; but one which is out of relationship with everyone around them.

The consequence can be a blinkered approach to a multi-faceted problem; or a lack of awareness of, or interest in, the bigger picture and other people’s contributions.

There is probably a Fachidiot in us all, walled-up in our own tiny slice of truth, threatened by the big flow around us.

It’s a bid for certainty and, therefore, safety.

But just as water away from the flow grows stagnant, foul-smelling and unusable, so, if isolated, do our skills and ideas.

Our insights are better in relationship, where they are tested and enriched.

‘Only connect,’ said Forster.

But the Fachidiot cannot do this. They are too busy making too much sense to themselves.

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