The curse of knowledge

We know our writing must be clear and reader focussed – but how do you know if what you wrote will make sense to your reader? After all, you know things that your reader doesn’t, and you can’t unhear or unsee this knowledge. This can cause you to write things that make sense to you, but no-one else. This is a type of unconscious bias called the curse of knowledge.

The best defence against the curse of knowledge is to get someone else to review your document. Fresh eyes will find gaps in your logic that your own mind had subconsciously filled. If you can’t get someone else to review your document, put it in the freezer. Set it aside for a few days before you review your draft; you will be surprised what you pick up. If you can’t put your document aside for a few days, try overnight. Or go make a cup of coffee – a few minutes in the freezer is better than nothing.


When setting goals for your team, for one of your people, or even for yourself, you have almost certainly tested them to make sure they were SMART goals. It is accepted wisdom that goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I could not agree more, but I don’t think it is enough.

The SMART criteria are sensible and logical. That is part of the problem. Goal setting is all about change—it is about moving towards a different future. In order to get most people (including yourself) to do something differently, it is not enough to get them to think differently, you must also get them to feel differently about the matter. SMART goals are good at making people think logically about what is required, but we need SMARTER goals to make them feel differently.

The next time you are setting goals, make them SMARTER. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound, Engaging and with a Reason to do it. Don’t assume your people will be persuaded by logic alone or that they will see the benefits of the goals for themselves. Make these benefits explicit. Make your goals SMARTER.