Is it better not to know too much?
When working for a manufacturer, I asked a group of product trainers, “How important is it to have a thorough knowledge of a product in order to be effective as a trainer?” They quickly agreed that it is critical to know a product inside and out to do a good job of training.
Then I asked, “Who in our company has the most complete knowledge about a given product?” They considered this question and concluded that product engineers knew more about their products than anyone else.
Finally, I asked, “Would product engineers make the best trainers?” The trainers immediately responded that our engineers would not be the best choice for trainers.
How can it be that it is important to have good product knowledge to be a trainer, yet the people who possess that knowledge, the engineers, are not the best choice to train others? In their best selling book Made to Last, Dan and Chip Heath discussed this dilemma known as The Curse of Knowledge.
“Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators.”
In fact, the more we know about a subject, the less likely we are to be able to explain it to others. More and more knowledge just makes communication more and more difficult. Since we can't imagine what it was like not to know, we can't figure out how to properly convey this information to those who don't know it.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome this conundrum. In our upcoming training blogs we'll address the use of SME's or Subject Matter Experts, and other methods of avoiding The Curse of Knowledge in training.
What examples can you describe of The Curse of Knowledge?
Social Media, Training, and Consulting
ideas and strategies to ignite positive change