How the curse of knowledge works and how to beat it

I was playing a game of “20 Questions.” With a group of musicians. We were using composers.

What makes the game interesting is to make the subject not too easy, but not too hard. That is, don’t choose Beethoven or Mozart; too easy. But don’t choose someone nobody has ever heard of; that makes it too difficult, and not as much fun.

I had a composer in mind: Domenico Dragonetti. I was a little nervous it might be too easy.

It wasn’t. It was way too hard. By the time they’d asked 20 questions, they weren’t even close. I even gave a few hints, but they didn’t get it.

What did I do wrong?

I had the curse of knowledge, and I didn’t even know it.

So here’s the background. Dragonetti (1763-1846), was a composer and famous bass player. He’s known chiefly (well, only) for a number of solos he composed for the bass.

If you play the bass, of course you know about Domenico Dragonetti. He’s a major player in the admittedly small world of bass repertoire.

You know where I’m going with this. I’m a bass player. Dragonetti is a presence in my life. Obvious. Top-of-mind.

But not so for everyone else in the world. Including virtually all educated, experienced classical musicians.

In my head, it was impossible not to know about Dragonetti.

In the entire rest of the world’s heads — nope.

The curse of knowledge is a problem. It messed with that game of 20 Questions. It will kill your fundraising.

And it’s hard to know when you have it.

So double-check yourself. Ask non-insiders if they know what you’re talking about.

(Or outsource fundraising writing to someone who’s an expert at fundraising, but not at the inner workings your cause.)

The main thing: Be aware of the curse of knowledge. It’s waiting to squish your fundraising at any time!


Comments

2 responses to “How the curse of knowledge works and how to beat it”

  1. Funny example and great advice.
    Ask the average person what “bequests,” “planned giving” and “advancement” mean and they will most likely respond, “Huh?”
    I think using Charles Mingus would have brought it down to 12 questions…maybe.
    Thx!

  2. Funny example and great advice.
    Ask the average person what “bequests,” “planned giving” and “advancement” mean and they will most likely respond, “Huh?”
    I think using Charles Mingus would have brought it down to 12 questions…maybe.
    Thx!

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog