Today I read a blog from Lorcan Dempsey on ‘the curse of knowlegde (for libraries)’. He states the following:

n summary it is very difficult to unknow something that you already know, and it can be difficult to imagine what it is like not to know it. This creates a potential communication gap. On the one side, the curse of knowledge may make it hard for somebody to understand why others simply do not get what they are talking about. On the other, an audience may miss the point entirely, because they do not share the context of the speaker. To communicate effectively we may have to step outside our own usual standpoint.

This phenomenon has well known practical consequences. For example, an expert or authority on a topic is not always the best person to explain it to a non-initiate audience. It also helps to explain the value of an editor, who can review a communication from a different standpoint than the author’s, recognizing, for example, where there needs to be further clarification of an issue.

Since reading about the curse of knowledge in Pinker’s book it has certainly prompted me to think about about my own communications behavior. Yes, I could often do more work to unpack what I am trying to say, or rely less on expressions which depend on some prior understanding or context. And I certainly know from followup conversation or questions at conferences that people can sometimes miss entirely what I thought was clear. (Yes, really.) I have become more alert to obvious preparation, learning more in advance about the composition of the audience for example.

In the rest of the blog he gives exemples on what and how libraries could (and should) communicatie about their services and / or added value.

His opinion matches the workshop GO | School for Information conducted during Acuril 2016 in Haïti on 7th june 2016. I hope this article helps you to understand the importance of communicating the right message to the right audience. Check our presentation on ‘The transition to real customer focused Information Services‘ for some examples and ideas on how to use this in your daily work.