The curse of knowledge

May 31st, 2010

While reading Made to Stick I had to stop to appreciate the epiphany of this realization: The curse of knowledge is so real and concrete. I find myself having real trouble explaining things that are obvious to me. Teaching the benefits of good design, IoC Containers, Composition vs Inheritance and what is common about enterprise kinda of development as opposed to other types are just extremely challenging.

People tend to think that having a great idea is enough, and they think the communication part will come naturally. We are in deep denial about the difficulty of getting a thought out of our own heads and into the heads of others. It’s just not true that, “If you think it, it will stick.”

And that brings us to the villain of our book: 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. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.

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