Enough keynotes, already

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

100_1There’s a well-known experiment, which led to the idea of “The Curse of Knowledge”. People were paired up. The first person had to think of a tune and tap it out with their fingers. The second had to guess. The guessers were pretty bad, whilst the tappers grew more frustrated. The tune was obvious to the tappers, and they couldn’t understand how the guessers were not getting it.

I think this “curse” goes way beyond knowledge. Leaders, trainers etc easily slide into articulating their views and think those who don’t “get it” are idiots. They then either give up, or think the solution is to repeat themselves, with increasing vehemence. It’s rather like the archetypal Englishman who think he can overcome the language barrier with foreigners by just speaking English really loudly and patronisingly.

Part of the problem is that the speaker is prioritising their ideas, their content, and forgetting about relationship. They are out of sync with their audience, something that happens very easily, especially when the audience is large and diverse.

There’s a big industry in training people to give better speeches, but I increasingly suspect this is not solving the right problem. A lot of the time, it would be better for people to stop giving speeches, and instead get better at conversations. Get away from keynotes that lay down the law, and engage in the messier business of conversing with people. It’s harder work and it doesn’t “scale”, at least not in some effortless way.

(Thanks to Ryan McGuire for the picture)

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