The curse of knowledge is a mental block & phenomenon which means that a better-informed person may find it difficult to communicate a point to a lesser-informed person or group. It’s an effect which can cause no end of issue for industry experts and in some cases can rear it’s (rather) ugly head in the form of ‘writers block’.
An great example of this in everday life is when a doctor explains to a person they are suffering nasopharyngitis or rhinopharyngitis. It’s a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract, often causing fatigue.
It’s commonly known as, well, the common cold!
It’s because you are having to explain something fairly complicated that actually a mind can become “jammed” with knowledge and be unable to explain in relatively simple terms to a novice about a specific subject. The Curse of Knowledge can be debilitating to a business, it can mean less leads, less sales and ultimately less profit – thats why we must fight this curse each and every day.
How to Overcome The Curse of Knowledge
There are lots of ways to overcome the curse of knowledge, but I believe in simplicity to overcome this issue which for me causes writers block (both for me and digital marketing clients).
1. Know of The Curse
As with any issue, the first port of call is to accept that the issue exists and that you do indeed suffer from it. Once you understand that you will realise it affects you more than you think, both in your personal and professional life.
A simple way to help you overcome the curse in your professional life is simply to ask “does that make sense?” or “are there any questions about that?”, whilst explaining things perhaps during a meeting or phone call. Doing this will not only ensure you’ve covered all bases but as a bonus will ensure that those listening are engaged and understand. (it’s a win win).
2. Think About Your Audience
If you have ever created a Content Strategy or any marketing plan, you will have come across the phrase “know your audience” – and whilst great advice to know who your audience are, actually that data alone won’t do anything for you.
In order to overcome writers block caused by the Curse of Knowledge you need to take your knowledge of your audience and make the data meaningful – what I mean by this is that you need to always be thinking about the audience and considering what they may or may not know.
It is always a great idea to kick off a meeting with an overview of anything which may be of importance to that meeting. You shouldn’t assume knowledge of anyone in the meeting beyond that which you have previously discussed. For example, when explaining social media management to a client I will often begin by explaining what I believe the be the purpose of various platforms for that business and how SMM can help ensure social media is effective for that business. (assume no knowledge, put everything into context).
3. Always Tell A Story
When in a meeting or blogging
A story will illustrate your point and help the “listener” to remember what you are saying and your reasoning. A great and simple example of this is with my recent “introduction to canva” which is a social media imagery creator … it worked so well on this post it had over 700 shares in just over 1 day!
The idea is not to make a big long-winded story up, there is no need to write a novel – the essence is to take the crux of an event and tell a story. For example in the Canva post I explain how I discovered the tool and how I actually really find Photoshop a hassle, which Canva isn’t – and that I love that it is free to use. Basically I ensure that users understood how this tool could fit their lives and was easy to use, simple and easy.
When I write a blog I always tell a story, it may not feel like it but I do – in this post for example I explain that almost any expert can be trapped by this curse.
With blogging, do think of it as a story. Remember it must have a beginning, middle and end, it must:
Start – with an overview of the problem and the solution (your experience)
Middle – talk about the solution in detail and how great it is.
End – with an action for them to take (try the tool, sign up for emails etc)
Note: this doesn’t work so well for static content like product descriptions, however in this case you would explain the use in lifestyle benefit terms.
4. Ask for Feedback
At the end of anything you say or write ask for feedback. Everyone likes to feel involved and again this is your chance to ensure you’ve covered everything and that something important hasn’t been misunderstood.
A fun way to ask for feedback, i find, during a workshop is to start asking random questions such as what is the one thing a person is taking away from the workshop (and it must be different to everyone elses) … this type of short discussion can ensure you’ve covered your points well and allows more questions to flow. The same principle can be given to blogs, meetings, phone calls etc – just remember if they can’t answer it’s fine as long as they understand what has been said.
If you don’t write on a regular basis it is a great idea to get someone to read over your work to ensure it makes sense to a layman and that you’ve not included stupidly complicated sentences and words which only industry experts will understand.
Now You Know, What Are You Doing?
Now that you know all about the Curse of Knowledge and how to overcome the issue – I want to know all about how the curse has affected you. You can do that by simply tweeting me (@andykinsey) or leaving a comment here or on facebook.
We all suffer from this curse at some point, so dont be scared.