Atom Wave: Ignorance Is Bliss

Atom Wave

Friday, January 04, 2008

Ignorance Is Bliss

Everything that you know is wrong! It turns out that knowledge is the poison of the mind; wait, clear that. Britney Spears, remember Britney Spears. That was horrible, something got past the filters.

Too late.

I will let you in on a little secret. The more you know the less you know. It turns out that once you acquire too much knowledge, your ability to innovate tapers off. This disturbing revelation or “curse of knowledge” is the product of a 1989 paper published in the Journal of Political Economy, thanks guys. The premise of the paper was that once you became an expert in a specific subject, you are less capable of thinking outside the box. We’ve all been there, at the vending machine with our co-workers tossing our code words and phrases around. Nearly every specific field of study in the world has its own inside jokes. That is all fine until somebody gets hurt, like the companies bottom line since sales are sliding.

Elizabeth Newton of Stanford University conducted a study in 1990 where she asked a set of people known as tappers to tap out the rhythm of a number of commonly known songs at the time. Another set of people known as listeners where assigned to identify the songs. They were terrible, only hitting about 2.5%.

Now translate this to the business world and you may be in business. All that is needed now is for the experts to speed up the non-experts and they will both be on the same basic line, and that is where the magic lies. This works even better with a “zero-gravity” thinker. The “zero-gravity” thinker is someone who isn’t an expert or is trained in a related field. It is even better if they don’t answer to the experts educating them. Once you have those elements in place the floodgates of creativity can flow. Experience is overrated, and employers ought to ask for less to staff their development offices.

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