the death of a good idea

A quick follow up to my last post

Matt over at 37signals posted a few external quotes about the curse of knowledge. Basically the point is that an idea is only good if it can be communicated well, and the smarter a person is in their field of expertise the harder it is to communicate well.

Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.

Another example I ran across (via Adaptive Path) was this article from the Harvard Business School about a meeting that took place with Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos before the Segway was released to the public. There are some really interesting insights in that discussion about the importance of first impressions when introducing a new idea or product. Here’s two quotes from Steve Jobs on his impressions of the Segway.

You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional.

And after he was told that lead times didn’t allow them to improve the design he responds with this one…

Screw the lead times. You don’t have a great product yet! I know burn rates are important, but you’ll only get one shot at this, and if you blow it, it’s over.


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