Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Curse of Knowledge

One of the best and by far the most useful books I've read in a long time is Made To Stick by the brothers Heath. I can't think of a profession or organization that could not benefit greatly by reading this book.

One of the foundations of the book is wrapped around the idea of the Curse of Knowledge. Try this game with some people:

Pick a song in your head, and then tap the beat on a table and see if anyone can guess what it is (p. 20 in the book).

Go ahead, try it, quit reading ahead. OK, you're reading ahead anyway, so here is the result - they didn't guess it. In fact, they weren't even close. This despite the fact that you could clearly hear the song playing along as you were pounding away on the table thinking about what dopes they are for not easily figuring it out. What sounded like a simple song to you was meaningless taps on a table for them - because they couldn't hear the tune in your head.

The Heath brothers say the same thing is going on when we try to communicate thoughts and ideas. We have thought through the possibilities, the struggle to get to the conclusion, read the books, spoken with experts and it all came to this great conclusion. Yet it doesn't seem to be getting through precisely because the audience didn't go through the same process you did. They hear it and it doesn't stick. Why? And how do we make it stick?

We will take a look at it over the coming weeks I'll keep adding posts from this book and others, as well as random thoughts.

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