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Knowledge is power(less) – why you should unknow what you know

By June 11, 2015April 8th, 2021No Comments
Knowledge is power(less) - business books on shelf

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” -Socrates

Knowledge is a gift. And a curse.

The curse of knowledge prevents us from understanding what it’s like to not know something we know. Our brains are wired to acquire as much knowledge as possible, and once we have it, we forget what the world looked like up to that point.

An expert on multivariate statistical analysis, for instance, is the worst person to explain math to Jane Doe. Unless they can jog their memory back to a place of unfamiliarity with statistics (like their students!), their explanation will sound like a jumble of dense jargon.

For marketers, the curse of knowledge hinders our ability to understand the customer’s perspective. Could it be that the knowledge which makes you a great marketer is hindering your ability to reach your audience? Your billboard copy is clever, the design is dynamic, and the picture is perfect — but your copy is so clever, no one can tell what you’re selling.

As marketing experts, it’s not just our job to promote, sell, and persuade on behalf of our employers or clients. It’s our job to unknow what we know — jogging our memories back to a point of unfamiliarity with our company, brand, products, or message — so that we can know what our customers truly want. Otherwise, we’ll forget that our customers may be searching for information we regard as common knowledge.

Stop and think about what you’re doing from an outside perspective and unknow what you know.

Ignorance isn’t merely bliss – it’s good business.


Special thanks to Raina Souminen.


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