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Thirsty Thursdays: The Expert's Curse

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Thirsty Thursdays: The Expert's Curse

What is The Curse of Expertise?

A psychological concept where a recognized authority ineffectively teaches novices on a subject, even to the point where their efforts are counterproductive.

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EXAMPLE: I see Executive Teams get bitten by this a lot.  After hours and countless meetings on the “next big thing” when they communicate the change to staff, they pick up the story as if the employees were part of the meetings.  EXPERT’S CURSE!  You can’t tell the story from chapter three and expect people to understand, let alone care about and support it.  Answering frustrated employees 3 months into your initiative means your change effort is doomed.

EXAMPLE: Ever talk to a web content developer about users who say they can't find anything on the intranet only to get the reply, “That information is just three easy clicks away!”  She knows the clicks! EXPERT’S CURSE!  After three errant clicks users are suddenly watching Youtube videos and they give up and call who they “think” should have the answers or just stop looking altogether.  Now you’re wonderful tool, the intranet, fails to live up to expectations.

We all fall prey to the Expert’s Curse.  When we do it can damage interactions with clients, cost sales opportunities, and impact relationships both personal and professional.  It’s a product of many things, not the least of which are we’re going too fast to be thorough and because we experienced all those meetings it's normal that we want to take the next step forward.  To go backwards to retell the story for others is not a natural inclination.



Meet people where they are, not where you are.  Initiate dialogue on topics where you’re the expert by asking questions.  Ask how familiar your audience is with the topic and offer to back up from where you start.  Make sure you create a comfortable environment so the most novice person in the room isn’t afraid to ask for more background.  This creates a common understanding and without that you can’t ever ask for their buy in.

And remember, complexity kills adoption.  Keep it as simple as you possibly can.  And if you find yourself worried it might be too complicated, you’re right, it is.  Start over.

Thirsty Thursdays are about our collective thirst for learning and knowledge.  It’s not about Beer:30 [although HR4ALL is all for that, too!]  We hope this weekly nugget of knowledge opens your mind and gives you a reason to pause and think differently.    Have a great weekend everyone! 

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