08 June, 2009

The Curse of Knowledge

I got this excerpt from the book Always Be Testing, a very good and useful tip for leaders and entrepreneurs also, not only for computer geeks and techies. Read on…


Nobody out there knows your business better than you do, and yet sometimes this knowledge leads you to assume wrongly when it comes to predicting what your site visitor sill do. We are all at risk for Inside the Bottle syndrome, which leads us to believe the people who come to our sites are just like us – they understand what we mean and know what we know. Of course, they don't. Now that we've stated this so bluntly, you probably find the thought laughable. But it's true. Everyone suffers this syndrome. Even those of us at FutureNow.

The most wonderful discussion of this that we've read involves "tappers" and "listeners." Tappers beat out a tune – say, "The Star-Spangled Banner" – on a table, and listeners try to identify the tune. The listeners get it right about one time in forty. The tappers, however, think that listeners are getting it right about one time in two! When they realize the listeners can't name that tune, they're flummoxed. How could the listener not know "The Star-Spangled Banner"?

Chip and Dan heath call this phenomenon the Curse of Knowledge.

"It's hard to be a tapper. The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it's like to lack that knowledge. When they're taping, they can't imagine what it's like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than the song. This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has 'cursed' us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can't readily re-create our listeners' state of mind."

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick (Random House, 2007)

The brothers Heath conclude there are only two ways around the Curse of Knowledge problem: 'The first is not to learn anything. The second is to take your ideas and transform them" (Ibid., p. 20)

In our little world of conversion rate marketing, testing is the vehicle for transforming your ideas.


From Always Be Testing, The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer, p. 50

By Bryan Eisenberg & John Quarto-vonTivadar with Lisa T. Davis




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