On The Curse of Knowledge

The Heath Brothers in their necessary book, Made To Stick say that knowledge can be a curse. Knowing too much about an industry means that you tread trodden trails and re-kick dead horses.

Too much industry knowledge makes the same old advertisements, the same messages and the same everything. It makes people gravitate towards the safe stuff, the stale stuff and the easy stuff.

That’s the problem with too much knowledge. And, it’s why we see many mild iterations on product design. If someone coding something is also designing it, he’ll often do what’s easy to code but not what’s correct for the users.

How To Beat The Curse Of Knowledge With Teamwork.
Here’s how we fix this – at Simplifilm. Both Jason and I are selectively ignorant.

We deliberately distribute ignorance among our team.

First, Jason and I bring different skills to the table. Jason is a world class visual artist. He’s won silver telly awards for his visual work. He’s had his work on broadcast TV, and he’s done work at a high level.

However, he doesn’t innately gravitate towards the tools we tell stories about.

And that’s a good thing. I do. I loved most of the early products before we ever started pitching them. I loved Headway, Scribe, Gravity Forms, and I love RescueTime. I’ve loved almost every product we’ve worked with. (They didn’t love me back, sadly).

I love what the founders are all attempting to do – unlock human potential. Our clients make life easier and free up our brains to solve bigger, badder and better problems. It’s hard not to wax reverent.

But I’m not a world-class visual artist. Not even close. So I don’t know what’s possible. I would like to brag that I’ve stayed ignorant.

Truth is, Jason and his team are out of the league of most people. It’s sort of like bragging that I never learned to slam dunk a basketball because I wanted to work on my free throws (not the fact that I simply can’t jump).

So we collaborate together on this stuff, Jason using the fresh approach and me contributing the ideas of how we use this (and lining up an endless supply of clients). Jason’s not going to gravitate towards most of the aps we use, and I’m certainly not going to instantly acquire 15 years of experience as a visual artist.

Sustaining enough ignorance that each project stays fresh is then assured.