The Curse of Knowledge

Why do we give details and lose the key message in details?   Is it because we know all the details and believe they are key to the understanding of the message?  If people miss the point, the details do not help.  How often when we try to convey a message do we get caught in the details and miss communicating the key message?   Rather than giving the headline we start with all the details.  For communicating an idea, the devil is in the details in a different way.  Often the detail devil hides the message.

In "Made to Stick", he points out assuming people know all the four letter acronymsand launching into all the details, may leave you audience lost.  Knowing all the details and providing them up front, will turn people off before you deliver the key point.   Four letter acronyms can be helpful short hand for people who know the language but you will lose many people in the process.   

If we couch all our ideas with all the details and conditions, our key idea is in danger of getting lost and never gets transmitted.

If a reporter wrote a newspaper article like a mystery story keeping the message till the end, we would never read the newspaper or at least not that news story.  

The reason this is called the Curse of Knowledge is that we know so much about  a subject the overall concept gets lost in the complexity.  To accurately describe an electron as a negativity charged probability cloud revolving around a nucleus would not help a high school student understand a molecule.  However a metaphor of the stars and planets would be more helpful to the student.  If we always want to be absolutely correct, our key ideas will get lost in the details.

Once the overall concept has been understood, we can then start weave in the details.  Hopefully the details will support the big idea or concept.  

How do you handle the curse of knowledge?


Leave a Reply

captcha *