Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Do we know too much?

So you go to school, and then you go to college, and at some point in there you start working. Maybe you go to graduate school, and maybe you switch careers a time or two, but all of this time you're learning. And presumably you'll reach a stage where you've learned a lot.

However, perhaps the most important thing that you can learn is that you don't know all that much.

Jason Cohen at Building 43 shared a post that illustrated how important this lesson is. The title of the post? "When being an 'expert' is harmful."

[EXPERT] “I talked to a bunch of the mentors and they all told me the same thing about pricing, but I’m telling you, they’re wrong. I know our industry, I know how our customers think, and in our industry …”

[COHEN] “OK, so when you talked to the last dozen potential customers and proposed the pricing scheme you just described, you’re telling me they all said, ‘Heck yes’?”

“Well, I didn’t actually ask them, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know what they’re going to say.”

“Great! So, next week you’re going to a convention where you’ll talk to dozens of new potential customers. Do me a favor — humor me! — and include your pricing scheme in the pitch. I’m sure you’re right and they’ll be thrilled, but since you’re so sure it certainly won’t hurt to include it. In fact, it will strengthen your pitch because it will match their expectations and therefore mitigate any worry that you don’t ‘get it.’”

“OK, I will!”

Since Cohen blogged about this experience, you can probably guess how it ends. Cohen concludes:

We’re all plagued by this defect of human nature — thinking we know more than we do — which then causes us to miss opportunities to actually learn something. I still struggle — in every customer call I have to consciously restrain myself from pitching and instead ask questions, and really try to understand what they mean instead of mapping their words onto what I want them to say.

But the best word on this subject was spoken by noted, expert Al Yankovic.

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