In breaking down “Made to Stick”, by Dan and Chip Heath, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one more element of this seminal book.
I’ll illustrate it with a story I heard a few weeks ago.
Mr. Smith is brought into the ER and as the doctor walked out of the room, he said to the nurse who was walking in, “Mr. Smith is SOB.” The nurse nodded.
Standing outside of the door was Mrs. Smith.
“Doctor,” Mrs. Smith said, “Why did you just call my husband an SOB?”
“Excuse me?” replied the Doctor. “Oh, no, ma’am. Your husband is short of breath.”
This is what the Heath brothers refer to as ‘The Curse of Knowledge.’ It may be better recognized as ‘jargon.’ But it is a bit more complex than words used. It also refers to situations where you forget that the person(s) to whom you are speaking don’t have the same knowledge as you, and speak to them as if they do have your level of expertise.
In other words, your audience didn’t go to med school or actuary school or engineering school or law school....
Every industry has it.
But when we tell stories or give speeches to people outside of our industry it is imperative to do two things:
1. Check your jargon at the door; and
2. Be sure that the concepts you are discussing are put into terms that anyone can understand.
Remember, don’t ‘curse’ your communication with the knowledge that makes the story you are telling inaccessible to your audience.