Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

If you recognize 7 shades of black, you need to avoid “the curse”​

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist 

“What does it take to be an expert fashion designer?”

“You should be able to recognize 7 shades of black. Maybe you could start with something simple like fuschia or burgundy,” said the fashion designer who was my co-passenger.

I tried to mentally count the shades that came to my mind – midnight black, onyx black, soot black, raven black and gave up. Fuschia and Burgundy are shades I will never be able to point to on a shade card. I don’t have any hope of being a designer, I told myself.

Every profession has its version of “7 shades of black” to segregate the novice from the expert. The classical musicians can decode the nuances of a concerto or a Raga with just a few notes.

This is exactly why the experts have to deal with “the curse” – the curse of knowledge.

How great communicators avoid “the curse”

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Take for instance the cartoon about the sommelier. If someone does not know that a sommelier is an expert in wines and a cicerone is an expert in beer, then the humor falls flat. This is what is called the curse of knowledge.

When an expert finds it difficult to understand how to communicate in simple terms with people who have no prior knowledge of the subject. The expert assumes that everyone has a similar level of understanding. Here are three things that can make you avoid the curse:

  1. Know the audience before you plan the content. If you make it too simple, the audience is bored. Making it too complex is also a recipe for disaster.
  2. Communicating things in a simple but interesting way is the real challenge. Storytelling helps more than a blizzard of information.
  3. Visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and illustrations can help make complex information easier to understand.
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How Gillette avoided the curse of knowledge

Proctor and Gamble is a company that is synonymous with shaving razors of all kinds. They wanted to design a low-cost razor for the Indian market.  They wanted to attract 500 million Indians who use an old-fashioned T-shaped razor that has no protective piece of plastic that goes between the blade and the skin when shaving. They tested it with Indian students in MIT and never figured out that they were missing a vital element until they went to India and observed men using a cup of water to shave. All the MIT students had running water. Without that, the razor stayed clogged.

It was only when the design team went to observe the user in their homes that they saw that their potential consumers shaved while sitting barefoot on the floor in a tiny hut with no electricity, no running water and no mirror.

(Read: here is the story in detail)

Avoiding “the curse” with new hires

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When a new hire joins, they’re already dealing with a lot of anxiety and stress. Everything is unfamiliar and different. It is like being in a foreign country with a limited vocabulary to work with. The new workplace has its own rules, do’s and don’ts and unspoken ways.

The best person to design the onboarding experience is the new hire group itself. The onboarding team can use the methods that designers leverage to create new products or experiences.

Designer tools that onboarding teams can leverage.

  1. User research: Conduct interviews and surveys of potential new hires to gain insights into their needs, motivations, and behaviors. This becomes the base for design that is grounded in reality.
  2. Create new hire profiles: The experienced hire in the head office may have different needs from someone in a remote location. Their needs may differ greatly. Understand the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of new hires in various scenarios and settings.
  3. Watch them go through each step: Most organizations do a good job of telling new hires about the rules and regulations. What trips the new hires are norms that are unspoken eg norms of behavior in the office and outside.

By always keeping the user’s perspective in mind and anticipating their needs, we can design products that truly serve them and enhance their experience. Taking this approach will result in designs that are user-friendly. Don’t forget to ask the new hires if they want to co-create the experience as your design partner.

Read about How to design work from the employee’s pov

Republished with permission and originally published at Abhijit Bhaduri’s LinkedIn

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