Ron del.icio.us’ed me a link about the Curse of Knowledge. I have to say I have been party to the curse of knowledge on more that one occasion. What I learned is that the curse of knowledge is really a symptom of flawed communication. As the complexity of the information increases so does the impact of flawed communication. So as I have had to deal with this in my career, I have developed some simple rules to help improve the communication and reduce the curse of knowledge.
- Make clear any assumptions you might have about the topic or the listener’s/reader’s understanding of the topic.
- Allow the listener to ask refining questions and respond in a supportive manner.
- Break the topic into small logical chunks. (This is one can be tough)
- Don’t expect the listeners light bulb to go off as soon as your done communicating.
- Use pictures and/or a white board when ever possible.
- Actually listen/read and consider the responses from your explanation.
- Be willing to be wrong and admit it.
- Avoid email at all cost, when the information is important only communicate Face to Face, For the less important stuff the telephone will do, and only use email for the mundane.
- Communicate until you feel like your being a bother. It is at he bother point you are just communicating enough.
Remember it never seems obvious to the listener.
Ed Batista has a post about Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammon’s response to an article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling titled A failure in generalship in the Armed Forces Journal. The article was called “blistering critique of the Army brass,” by Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal.
On June 25, The New Yorker published a story titled The General’s Report by Seymour Hersh. The story details what happened to Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who lead the army investigation into Abu Ghraib. (via tompeters.com)
These articles are examples of how not to deal with critical information. Leaders must embrace both positive and negative information. There is always a short term cost of negative information, but reducing transparency within the organization to minimize the impact of negative information is WRONG. The reduction of organizational transparency will carry a larger cost over the long term, than that of the negative information. Reduced Transparency results in less trust, increased transactional and operational costs.
I have been in a leadership program for about a month now. The session this week is “The Art of Leadership” based on the book by the same name authored by William A. Cohen PhD.. The class has been thought provoking, most provoking was the exercise where I identified the different types of advice I rely on and who provides the advice. I really thought about the various contributors in my “Board of Directors”.
The insight that I came away with is that for most of my career I have treated it like personal art, something that I created alone while integrating feedback from others. The reality is that as I seek to pursue the goals I have set for myself in the coming years I will have to become more skilled at treating my career as a collaborative piece of art. I may have to think about my career more like making music, because every great solo artist still has an engineer and in most cases a producer. The session really has focused my thoughts regarding how I care for and nurture my career.