Becoming an expert in a field is great. It earns you respect and makes you look distinguished. But it might come with a big side effect. What it is?
Your level of expertise might stand in the way of your performance and productivity. Seriously? I can’t make that up. Allow me to explain my point.
Like I said earlier, knowledge and expertise might come with a major downside called: “The curse of knowledge”.
Now, you are thinking, “ What the heck is that?” I am happy to elaborate. Please bare with me.
Have you ever listened to a speech, a lecture, or a debate to realize, in the end, you understood nothing. Maybe almost everything the speaker said was way over your head. Frustrating, wasn’t it?
But have you ever reflected on how you communicate your knowledge? Will a layperson understand your interventions? Ok, keep pondering these questions? Now, back to the main issue: “the curse of knowledge!”
How the curse of knowledge affects productivity
The Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker describes the curse of knowledge as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.”
For example, your knowledge makes you assume that everybody understands your messages because your sentences sound so good to your ears.
Here is the thing:
If you are an expert in your field, chances are you use jarpons or technical terms only few people understand. That is, you might be speaking greek at the team meetings without being aware of it.
The consequence? Your colleagues don't follow your line of thoughts and instruction. Consequently, they are unable to support you and your projects, and your input does not help them either. Obviously, you affect everyone’s productivity... bummer!
Wait ! There's more. If you are a supervisor, things can get even worse. How? Speaking like a book is a sure way to create confusion and hold your team back.
What I am trying to say is because you understand your technical terms does not mean others do. Your guidance may not help your team members to take concrete actions. Neither will you be able to count on their comprehension to move things forward. Again, you might be dragging productivity down without knowing it.
What to do about it?
- Find a performance or communication coach
- Learn to communicate your ideas and instructions in simple terms that everyone understands
- If you have to use your technical terms, make sure to explain their meaning and provide examples to make your points across.
- Always assume your colleagues don’t necessarily know what you know and see what you see
- Let other people read your messages or emails and ask for feedback or advice before sending them out
- Practice giving simple speeches or instructions in front of the mirror or to your friends
- Offer your audience an opportunity to ask clarifying questions
Where to start?
Since you like knowledge so much, why not doing some reading on the subject?
- Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by Carmine Gallo
- Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan
- 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work—Anywhere by Bento C. Leal III
What else do you want to add to the list? Thanks for keeping the conversation going by sharing this post in your network.