Saturday, August 23, 2008

In love with the villain: Curse of knowledge

I am addicted to reading. And like any addict, I look for excuses to indulge. When my friend RamP sent me an email a couple of weeks back that I should buy the book “Made to stick”, I immediately went and bought one copy.

Made to stick” written by Dan and Chip Heath is about how to design a message such that it becomes more sticky. All of us know how much we remember from the last presentation that we attended. On the flip side, the same thing must be true about the last presentation we made as well. The book talks about attributes such as simplicity, unexpectedness, and concreteness that are common to all sticky messages.

Apart from these interesting attributes, the story has a villain too. The villain who makes it really hard for us to generate sticky messages. And it is this villain which has got stuck to my mind more than anything else. In fact, I would say I am in love with the villain! Who is this villain, after all? It is called “Curse of knowledge”. When we, as experts, know something, it is extremely difficult to imagine what it means to “not to know” that something. I don’t know about you, but I have felt this “villain” in me active many times during my training sessions.

It is no surprise that the Stickiness Aptitude Test created by Guy Kawasaki & Co takes away 3 points if you are an engineer and takes away 4 points if you are an MBA. It does not even consider PhD worthy of mention (perhaps, you are not even qualified to take the test). I have learnt my lesson.

You may want to check out Chip Heath's interview with McKinsey Quarterly. And Guy Kawasaki's interview with Dan Heath. And Chip Heath's interview podcast at

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