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The "Curse of Knowledge"

| Laurie Brown | ,

He was the smartest boss I ever had. As a matter of fact, he was brilliant. And for the most part, he was a great communicator. But he suffered from something called the "Curse of Knowledge."

As smart as he was, he assumed the people who worked for him were equally knowledgeable. When he would delegate work to us, he would tell us what he needed in shorthand. He just assumed we knew what he knew. We all struggled to meet his unspoken requests. We didn't have enough information to meet his expectations. We were not mind readers or capable of doing a Vulcan mind meld, and more than once, we failed. 

According to Wikipedia, the "Curse of Knowledge" is a cognitive bias that occurs when a person deeply understands a topic and finds it difficult to explain it in a way that is easy for others to understand.

Delegation is essential to effective leadership, but it can be challenging when the Curse of Knowledge bias is present. This can be particularly problematic when delegating tasks, leading to confusion and misunderstandings, causing delays and hindering productivity.

When we are experts in a field, it is easy for us to take for granted the knowledge that we have acquired over time and assume that others have the same level of understanding. This can lead us to provide incomplete instructions or to use jargon and technical terms without realizing that the person we are delegating the task to may not be familiar with them. Additionally, we may also make assumptions about the person's background and experiences, further hindering their ability to complete the task.

To overcome this bias and effectively delegate tasks, here are a few tips:

  1. Be clear and specific: When delegating a task, it is essential to be clear and specific about what needs to be done. Provide detailed instructions, and make sure that the person understands the task's objectives, deadlines, and other relevant information.
  2. Provide context: It's essential to provide context to help the person understand why the task is necessary, what the end goal is, and how it fits into the bigger picture.
  3. Encourage questions: Encourage the person to ask questions if they don't understand something or need more information. Make sure they have all the information they need to complete the project successfully.
  4. Provide resources: Make sure that the person has access to the necessary resources and tools to complete the task. This includes training, software, and other materials that they may need.
  5. Follow-up and provide feedback: Follow up with the person to ensure they are on track and provide feedback on their progress. As a result, the task will be completed successfully.

As a leader, you know how important delegation is to the success of your business, but check your Curse of Knowledge bias. By following these tips, you can overcome the Curse of Knowledge and ensure that tasks are delegated effectively, resulting in increased productivity and improved performance.

If you want help overcoming this common bias, take one of our leadership workshops.