The Curse of Knowledge

In the world of Information Technology, knowledge reigns as king. The ones who sit at the top are believed to hold the most knowledge or skills. However, similar to Notorious B.I.G.’s single “Mo Money Mo Problems”, greater volume of skill often leads to more issues in regards to teamwork within a company. In our handbook, the “Geek to Manager” addresses this problem of the inability to transition from a skilled position to management.

Communication Breakdown

One of the most important aspects of a good team lies in the effectiveness of it’s communication skills. The transfer of information has an important role in the business world especially in the department of IT. Unfortunately, the more information we have, the harder it is to communicate. This is called the curse of knowledge. When it comes to their jobs, geeks tend to have a large amount of knowledge about their field. This makes it easy for them to assume the person they are talking to shares the same basic knowledge as they do.

When working at the IT Desk, I encounter this problem on a regular basis. This flow chart represents a typical situation I find myself in with a client that does not have much knowledge about computers. Fortunately, I can get away with not having to worry if they understand or not most of the time. After all, sometimes ignorance is bliss.

In a management situation, the manager cannot afford to leave a coworker out of the loop. Especially for technical people, it can be very difficult to work through this. Even for IT workers, communication still rules in the end.

The Most Skilled Don’t Always Make the Best Leaders

As obvious as it is when it comes to the IT world, the transition from worker to leader serves as an issue across many different¬†fields. Whether it’s sales, accounting, or customer service, the transition remains difficult.

Nicknamed The Great One for being one of the greatest athletes of all time, Wayne Gretzky, serves as a great example of the difficulty of the movement from player (in this case) to manager. Throughout his career, Gretzky proved himself to be the greatest hockey player of all time. After being retired since 1999, he still holds over 60 records in the National Hockey League, including the most goals scored, most assists recorded, and the only player to every garner over 200 points in a single season. The world watched in anticipation after his retirement to see if he would begin his career as a coach. He fulfilled the hockey world’s hopes as he agreed to be head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes as well as 10% owner of the franchise. Gretzky’s coaching career did not pan out in the same way as his playing career though. After four years of coaching, the Coyotes’ franchise faced bankruptcy and Gretzky ended his time as head coach with a losing record while failing to ever make the postseason. The Great One then decided to stray away from the coaching scene as he now finds himself as a partner and vice chairmen of the Edmonton Oilers’ organization. Even though he was the greatest hockey player the world had ever seen, Gretzky could not find a way to communicate his vast hockey knowledge onto other players. He now stands on top of the list of star athletes who failed to succeed as coaches of their sports.

When it comes to leadership, communication is key. Many people around the world find themselves struggling to communicate their talents onto their coworkers or successors no matter what field they specialize in. Working with technology requires a large amount of skill and knowledge. With the talent that technical people bring to their fields comes a curse of knowledge that creates barriers between them and their colleagues. By working on our communication and leadership skills, we can better prepare ourselves to be leaders in the future.

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