The curse of knowledge

You know how it is. It’s four o’clock on Friday, you’re on the last Zoom call of the day, and suddenly you’re woken from your daydream by Jones from Marketing: “Anyway, our AB readership, many of whom are ABs, have been thoroughly AB tested.” Well, if you can’t make head or tail of that, don’t worry — you’re just another victim of the ‘curse of knowledge’.

You don’t have to have worked in a corporate setting to have come across the ‘curse’.  It occurs when a speaker blessed with knowledge assumes that an audience shares his or her expertise and intuitively understands what they are talking about. When they don’t (and they frequently don’t), then that blessing can turn out to be a curse.

“Looking at our KPIs as we approach Q3 we can see that our CRR is just as important as SQLs”. Or to put it another way, “At this critical time of year, the measure of our success is just as much about keeping hold of existing customers as taking on new ones”.

Well, why not say so?

Such cognitive bias is common in any number of workplaces, from schools to hospitals, and from industry to politics. Anywhere, in fact, where acronyms and abbreviations have become ingrained into the office vocabulary.  This terminology may be helpful to those who are ‘on the same page’, but for those who are not — those in junior positions perhaps, or those who are not ‘up to speed’ with the latest jargon — interpreting such language can also seem like a curse.

Back to my first example. I doubt whether you would ever hear it in real life, but if you did, it would probably be at a meeting between an economist, a university professor, and a marketer: AB can mean socioeconomic class, a university degree (the equivalent of a BA), and a test of two alternative marketing strategies to discover which is the more effective. But you knew that, right?