Do You Know Too Much?
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When George told his dad that he was going to get his Master’s degree, his dad said, “Be careful, son … you don’t want to get so educated that no one can use you!”
Is your knowledge a blessing or a curse?
The curse of knowledge
It seems that as our knowledge and experience increase, our creativity and innovation decrease. When you become an expert in a field, you risk losing the innovation that probably got you there. That’s the curse of knowledge!
That leads to some strange things … for example, why do you have to go to “start” to shut off your computer? Techies understand that. However, to the average person, it doesn’t make sense at all.
Group think often results when experts collaborate. As long as you only involve people just like yourself, you end up with things like going to “start” to finish.
The sign of the curse
Have you tried reading a book written by an expert in a field new to you? Or gone to a web site that’s outside your area of expertise? What did you see? Perhaps it was like reading a foreign language. It was jargon – the sign of the curse.
Maybe you’ve sat in a room of people, all speaking jargon. At some point, you asked a question! Gasp! Do you remember the looks? You don’t know it all! Gasp (again)!
If you find that your speech is full of jargon, you may know too much!
Something interesting happens as novices ask questions. The experts are forced to explain their subject simply – from the perspective of a newbie. In the process, the experts often discover new ways to look at the same old problems.
So why do so many people only hang out with people just like them? Because it’s comfortable. It’s good for your ego to feel like you’re part of such a prestigious group. Your input is valued when you’re in your area of expertise talking with other experts.
A good problem within limits
We’re certainly not suggesting that you don’t want to be an expert in your chosen field. In fact, the opposite is true – seek first to be an expert!
Then you can have the problem we’re talking about here – it’s a good one to have! But recognize that your creativity and innovative tendencies are often limited when you’re an expert.
So how can you remain creative when you’re an expert?
- Make some new friends, outside of your field.
Or reconnect with some old friends, outside of your inner circle of experts like you. People you don’t converse with much anymore because you’re too busy! Mingle with people who have a variety of experiences. You’ll learn things from them that that will help you be more innovative again.
- Get a hobby, especially a creative one.
We wrote an article recently, 98 Does Your Hobby Work For You] It highlights a study of Nobel laureates. That’s a pretty innovative group, wouldn’t you say? The researchers found that about one percent of all scientists claimed some leisure pursuit. They were surprised to learn that over fifty percent of the Nobel Prize winners had a serious hobby! So get out of your “lab” and get your creative juices flowing again.
Sometimes, it pays to listen to novices
Cynthia Barton Rabe wrote a book called The Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine… And What Smart Companies Are Doing About It. She tells the story about an executive who was with Ralston Purina when they bought out Eveready. Eveready had successfully marketed flashlights for years, but now the business was very mature.
This was the mid-1980s. Eveready sold their flashlights through hardware stores and lumber yards. They offered two colors – red and metal. The transferred executive suggested new colors – pink, light blue, and light green. These colors would appeal to women, she argued. Gasp! The experts only looked at her with dismay.
She suggested that the flashlights be distributed through grocery stores! Gasp! Fortunately, she sold the decision-makers on her idea. The result – bigg sales! You’re the expert.
Keep in mind that sometimes that’s a curse. Be open to new ideas, even from novices!
Our bigg quote today comes from William Shakespeare.
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
If you know at all, you’ll know that you don’t know it all.
Next time, we’ll discuss climbing the stairway to … success. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!
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