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The Curse of Knowledge
Practicing empathy in business
This period of recession and financial crisis has been really crazy for founders, investors and businesses, even for the smartest and most knowledgeable ones. In short, the most knowledgeable people tend to make a lot of mistakes in a crisis. Let me explain with the story below:
Tim is a very smart founder, with years of experience under his belt. He had a brilliant idea for a revolutionary product that he believed would change the world. Filled with enthusiasm and determination, Tim founded his own company and set out on a mission to bring his innovation to the market.
As Tim delved into the intricate details of his innovative product, he became deeply knowledgeable about its features and benefits. He knew it inside and out, spending endless hours fine-tuning it, understanding its nitty-gritty, and dreaming about its mind-blowing potential. But little did he know, he was falling right into the trap of the “curse of knowledge”.
The curse of knowledge is a concept that refers to the difficulty of putting oneself in the shoes of someone who lacks the same information or understanding. In Tim's case, his extensive knowledge of the product made it challenging for him to empathize with his customers, and staff who were not as familiar with the technology as he was. He stonewalled when given feedback and just couldn’t understand why people couldn’t see what he saw.
This lack of empathy started to affect Tim's business. He struggled to effectively communicate the value of his product to potential customers, assuming they would instantly grasp its benefits. But alas, they were confused and eventually become uninterested. He got so caught up in his brilliance that he couldn't relate to his customers who weren't on the same wavelength.
Additionally, Tim faced challenges when hiring new employees. He assumed that everyone he brought on board would possess the same level of understanding about the product and his vision. As a result, he failed to provide adequate guidance, leading to misunderstandings and inefficiencies within his team making Tim not a ‘team player’.
Recognizing the curse of knowledge is the first step for Tim to tackle this issue and bring his business back on track. Here are some key steps you can use to overcome this challenge that Tim experienced:
Cultivate Awareness: You have to acknowledge that your deep knowledge could be a barrier to effective communication and empathy. Consciously remind yourself that others might not share the same level of understanding as you.
Practice Active Listening: Actively listen to your customers, employees, etc. Encourage them to share their thoughts, concerns, and questions without hesitation. This will enable you to gain valuable insights into their perspectives and adjust your communication accordingly.
Simplify and Tailor Communication: You have to learn to simplify your messaging and tailor it to different audiences. Avoid using ‘jargon’ and use clear, relatable language to convey the value and benefits of what you are building. This made it easier for others to grasp and connect with your vision.
Teach and Train: You have to invest time and resources in providing comprehensive training for your employees and co-workers. Equipping them with the right knowledge and tools will help them correctly represent you and your product/service accurately.
Seek Feedback: Throw your doors open to feedback and actively seek it from customers, employees, and co-workers. Be comfortable listening to other opinions and suggestions, realizing that those perspectives could help you refine your product and business processes.
My Conversation with Håvar Bauck on The Grinders Table Podcast shares how HotelOnline survived during the COVID-19 pandemic by listening to what the market was saying.
By embracing empathy and taking these steps, you can successfully tackle the curse of knowledge. Your communication will become more effective, your employees will feel valued and supported, and your customers will understand and appreciate the true worth of your product.
Remember, the curse of knowledge can hinder growth and understanding, but with empathy and conscious effort, it can be overcome. Let empathy be the key that unlocks the door to success in your entrepreneurial journey.
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