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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
612-978-3050

"The Curse of Knowledge"

"knowing" can easily get in the was of listening and learning

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

I have just finished reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Their subtitle captures their theme: "Why some ideas survive and others die." It's a great book for anyone involved in communication, as we are, in the training business.

They spend a good part of the book arguing that "verbal persuasion" -- essentially either lecturing people or arguing with them -- often has very little impact, other than to increase resistance and breed resentment. And they provide a lot of examples of how various individuals have restated their messages in ways that made them immediately accessible, that allowed their audiences to instantly grasp and retain the core ideas.

Highly recommended reading.

Now, one of the biggest challenges they identify is overcoming "the curse of knowledge." This refers to the fact that by the time we have decided what we want someone else to do, or what we want them to know, we are probably experts in our own message. And we simply cannot figure out why other people do not "get it."

You have seen this many times: the doctor who cannot explain what is wrong with you, the mechanic who bewilders you while describing your car's problems, insurance agents, engineers, technical support staff of all kinds. I strongly believe that one of our most important roles, as training professionals, is helping others in our organizations overcome "the curse of knowledge," to help them deliver key messages in ways that truly have an impact on less knowledgeable employees.

The thing about this curse is that it is hard to see when we, ourselves, are suffering from it. As a training professional, you may be great at getting the in-house experts (SMEs) to restate what they know in ways that the average worker can understand.

But how many times have you found yourself shaking your head in a discussion of some training initiative involving another department -- shaking your head before they have even finished telling you what they think should happen? How many "shoulds" do you lay on those non-training colleagues as you explain to them your vision of how things will go? How often do they walk away with a course or training program that is the way it is because "the training department says so," rather than because they share an understanding of the reasons why that is the best approach?

Truly shared ideas are more powerful than imposed ideas. Make sure you take the time to listen to what your clients, internal or external, believe they need. Find out what their vision is, no matter whether or not you know instantly that it is not the best approach.

And then take the time to craft a "sticky," instantly accessible vision of the path you recommend. It definitely takes some time and effort, but the benefits are unmistakable.

You hate being talked down to by experts on other topics. Make sure you are not doing exactly the same thing when it comes to the training services you provide.

© 2011 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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