Working around the "curse of knowledge"?

Working around the "curse of knowledge"?

Postby tsmith » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:06 pm

Hi all,

We're developing a very technical product (GridCentric Copper), with a pretty technical target customer (owners / operators of computer clusters. So far, customers we talk are able to intuit our value prop, which is a step in the right direction. The trouble we're having, being neck-deep in the technology and development, is describing "who we are and what we do" to people who aren't intimate with our space (compute clusters). I believe this is generically known as "the curse of knowledge", and is described in the book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" by Chip and Dan Heath.

This is an issue because in addition to customers we also have to talk to analysts, media, and potential investors, all of whom don't want their time wasted while we bury the lede.

My question for fellow IS forum members: what approach did you take to "get your head out of the boat" long enough to see things from an outsider's perspective?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Working around the "curse of knowledge"?

Postby LoveGolf » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:23 pm

Great topic and I sympathize with it - a while ago I was involved in a Company hip deep in search engine technology -- before google this was an area of little customer expertize and we always had to dumb down the explanation until we found something that resonated with the prospect. Some things we used successfully included:

1. Coming up with some use cases that are more commonly understood. Even though clusters are complex to understand, especially when you would need this type of compute model, there must be some problems people can relate to - perhaps programming the computer to play chess or computing the nth digit if PI would help people appreciate how it is done now and how it could be done better with your solution.

2. Developing a video shot of someone explaining how grids and clusters work with white board in hand. Again, stay with examples people can relate to -- perhaps real time problems like handling massive info needs when natural disasters happen. Even be bold and talk about how Google might work to search massive databases when user load goes up -- how does American Idol handle 40-million votes in two hours after the show -- what happens to those computers between shows

Let me know if this is useful (or if you have already tried these) and perhaps I can dream up some additional ideas.
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Re: Working around the "curse of knowledge"?

Postby cadman_chui » Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:16 pm

Sometimes you get into the thick of the trees and you can't see the forest. I've definitely been there, many times. I think it is always important to see things from a product marketing perspective. When I worked in product management I always tried to view the product from the customer's eyes. I would continually ask myself a few questions:

"How would I announce this product or set of new features in a press release?"
"What kind of marketing campaigns could I drive with the product? What would the messaging be? What are the hot buttons?"

In fact sometimes we would START a new product idea with a press release, to see if it was appealing from a marketing perspective. Sometimes we would even launch the product (even if we had none!) to see if we could get traction.

Your product may be a bit complex, but can always be simplified and translated for the non-technical to understand. You just need a good translator.

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Re: Working around the "curse of knowledge"?

Postby akw » Sun May 09, 2010 11:52 pm

Technology - Product - Solution.

I like to think of this when I'm down at the technology/product level and need to get "unstuck". You have a product that solves a problem using technology. What is the general business problem you are trying to solve? Lovegolf was taking you in that direction with the suggestions about use cases and videos

Along with those items some things I've done to help me learn how to explain the product to people that aren't in the space:

- Find and use ideas from similar companies
Are there any other companies that are in your space or close to it? What are their solutions focused around? What's their pitch? You could set up a demo/webinar with them to get a better feel.

- Turn intuitive into concrete
This can be tough to do. I usually think about time, money, quality. Turn your customer's intuitive sense of into general facts you can use by asking questions.
Ask existing customers to explain why your product is great for them and let them talk. Follow up with some questions. They implemented your technology/product because....? It saves them money because..? How much are the savings? How long will it take to roll out? What will the disruption to current operations be?

The answers to these questions will hopefully lead you to some general points that you can use with people not familiar with your space.

- Go one level up the organization
It seems you are talking to the operators of the clusters. Are they the decision makers? Is there anyone up the chain that you might be able to gain insight from? They may even be able to spout off material that you can use directly or use to further feed your questions.

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