November 3, 2009

The curse is back!

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One of my favorite concepts to illustrate from "Made to Stick" is the Curse of Knowledge. I've written about it here and here.

We all have some kind of knowledge that others don't have. It becomes a curse when we fail to recognize that what is obvious to us is completely opaque to someone else. Then we have miscommunication, resentment, boredom and all kinds of negative consequences.

Here's an example of the curse that was passed along to me confidentially. No names will be revealed!

Eleanor Entrepreneur has been invited to advertise on Tracy TV's television show. Eleanor Entrepreneur wants to know the benefits to her business and the return on investment of this advertising package. Tracy TV shares with Eleanor Entrepreneur a handout describing "What it takes to produce a television show" in hopes that Eleanor will see the value of contributing her advertising dollars.

(Do I even have to tell you that this is all about the benefit to the television show, and not at all about Eleanor Entrepreneur? But putting that aside...)

Here's the list Eleanor Entrepreneur was given of "What it takes to produce a television show":

Research -- cutting edge -- up to date

Writing -- organizing script, facts, people


Shooting video




6 associates

Editing time 1 minute = 3-5 hours

Opening -- design, editing


Does this make any sense to you? Does it answer any questions? Does it tell you one thing about the time, cost or equipment required to produce a TV show? (This question is obviously for those of you who don't know anything about producing a TV show.)

I laughed out loud when I looked at this list. The TV people clearly think this handout is going to help them gain advertising. However, unless they can overcome their curse of knowledge, the list will only confuse their prospects and as the saying goes, "A confused mind always says no."

Always, ALWAYS make sure that you are explaining concepts in the clearest, simplest, most explicit terms. Do not ever assume that people understand what you're talking about, especially if you are talking about specific industry or business terms that might be considered jargon or lingo.

You don't want to alienate people. You want to draw people to you. You want people to relate to you. You want people to get you. That's how you persuade, sell or motivate.

The curse of knowledge has an antidote: Put yourself in the shoes of your listener. Imagine they don't know what you know. Then make your ideas simple for them. Curse removed!

On The Everything Page you'll find everything you need to build visibility, credibility and influence through engaging presentations that move your participants into action: freebies, low-cost products and courses, and 1:1 coaching!

4 comments. Please add yours! :

Amber Wallace said...

This is so true! I see this happen a lot in the web world, where there can be so much jargon and our best forms of communication (like email) can be the most problematic... We don't see the quizzical looks when someone reads about SEO & a custom CMS! (You probably all know, but just in case, search engine optimization & content management system!)

It is so important to remember our perspectives and have open communication! Great advice for every aspect of our lives.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for sharing, Amber. Reminds me of the Jimmy Fallon "IT guy" character on SNL who got so frustrated with everyone he helped. "Move!" :-)

Teri Breier said...

Lisa, I am just catching up on your recent blog posts. I see this all the time with my copywriting clients who bring me in to edit, update or write content, whether it's for the web, brochures, press releases or ads. Many of them have been so focused on describing what their company does, that they neglect to tell the prospective customer the positive benefits THEY will experience by using the product/service. "Communicate the Benefits" is my #1 mantra.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Teri, I so agree about benefits vs. features. That's it, in a nutshell!

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