3 Ways to Get Beyond the Curse  of Knowledge

I recently changed jobs after 25 years. 

It was time for a change, but the transition has reminded me of a valuable lesson. Every business suffers from the curse of knowledge.

In a 2008 interview with Donald Miller, Lee LeFever described the curse of knowledge this way: “The more you know about something, the harder it is to imagine what it’s like not to know.”

Here’s a good example from my life.

I have been driving a car for 34 years. Before that, I drove tractors. Now, I am trying to teach my kids how to drive. 

I can get very frustrated trying to instruct! 

Why? 

Because I am so familiar with driving, I can’t explain it in an understandable way. 

If you have been in your business for longer than a year, there is a good chance that you are drifting towards the curse of knowledge. 

Here are 3 Ways to Get Beyond the Curse of Knowledge 

1. Listen to your new team members

As a leader worth following, I am sure you listen to your new employees, but you really need to listen to the questions that they are asking. Their questions will lead you to understand where you have been cursed with knowledge. 

2. Explain your business to someone new  in less than 3 minutes

I am reminded of the clip from Office Space, “What would you say you do here?” 

Since starting my new job, I have tried to explain what I do to people every chance I get. If they looked confused, I know I still have work to do.

3. Frame your entire business through your customer’s story. 

To do this you only need to ask four questions:

  • Who is our customer?
  • What do they want?
  • How do we help? 
    It may be guiding them (travel agent, teacher, blogger), selling them a product (gasoline, ice cream, flowers), or solving the problem for them (remodeling the kitchen, cleaning the house, driving them to their destination)
  • How does our help give them what they want?


The curse of knowledge is not simply bad. It is costing you business. If you don’t make what you do clear and understandable to someone with little knowledge of your business, it is costing you opportunites.

Thanks for being a leader worth following,

Brian Rutherford
Director of Content & Product Strategy

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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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