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Dr TechSpeak, or: ‘How I Learned to Unlearn and Get More Sales’  

You’re an expert in your field. You know the ins and outs of your product and what makes it powerful.

You could give lectures on the specifications, delving into the details of processing power or front-end functionality.

Because you’re passionate about it – and that’s brilliant.

But there’s a problem. All that knowledge is clouding your vision. When you write about your product, you’re losing your audience to techspeak. 

To put it bluntly: your audience doesn’t understand you – so your brilliance is getting buried under complexity.

As we say at Craft – Don’t Bury Your Brilliance. 

Connect with your audience on their level. Explain what you do in a way they’ll understand…

Explain it like I’m five

“Explain it like I’m five”, or ‘ELI5’. You’ve heard the phrase. A common saying that means “explain this to me in a way that’s super easy to grasp”. 

Obviously, we can take it with a pinch of salt. Because, let’s face it, no matter how much you dumb down the rules of quantum mechanics, a five-year-old will struggle. However, the legendary physicist Brian Cox does a fantastic job of explaining them in just 60 seconds. He gets that most people are clueless about this subject and manages to simplify it without losing meaning or patronising.

His gift for communicating the complex in an accessible way has made him a household name. The same can be said for tech brands that know how to cut through their tech twaddle and speak directly to people’s emotions. They’re the brands that are successful. 

 But so many fail because of the ‘curse of knowledge’.

The curse of knowledge

In this article taken from Dan and Chip Heath’s book ‘Made to Stick’, the phenomenon is explored in depth. It’s a problem that plagues subject matter experts worldwide. Particularly in the tech sector, where the gap between what the business knows and what their audience knows, or cares about, is vast. 

Basically, when we become experts on something, we forget we once knew nothing about it. We forget others might not know either, so we chatter to them about our subject in depth and get blank stares. In the words of Dan and Chip:

“The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.”

Brands ‘cursed’ with knowledge aren’t remembering that all of us must learn everything from scratch. From the simple, to the breathtakingly complicated. And there’s always that moment when we’re new to a topic, subject, idea – where it’s hard to grasp.

“Explain it like I’m five, could you?”.

‘The curse of knowledge’ is a cognitive bias. And, the good news is it’s something we can spot in ourselves and our businesses. It’s something we can eradicate, leading to more effective communications.

Understanding cognitive bias

Cognitive biases help us find mental shortcuts to navigate daily life. For example, the human brain naturally simplifies information by filtering it through personal experiences and preferences. This is a coping mechanism enabling the brain to deal with lots of information quickly. 

While this works, it’s cognitively biassed towards our own views and understanding of the world. What we know to be obvious in our own heads may not be to others.    

 Consider this. When we visit our first school, what once appeared as an educational metropolis, is now a miniature set in the film of our life. That’s because we’ve grown physically and metaphorically. We’ve experienced life in the wider world and so our perception has changed. 

If you were to rewatch a lesson you had as a child, you wouldn’t find the subject difficult like you may have back then. In fact, it might be laughably easy. However, as a child, so much was uncharted territory. If we’re silent for a moment and think. We can remember that feeling, right? The feeling of not knowing. Raising our hands, racking our brains.

This is us unlearning.

The power of unlearning

“When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.” Henry David Thoreau 

Unlearning is all about recognising that the full depth of what we know might not always be useful to us. Especially in a business sense. 

Think about your favourite novel. Why did you decide to read it? You’ll know all the nuances of the narrative and what makes it great. But you had to read it to gain this knowledge. So, this information isn’t what sold it to you initially.

Perhaps a friend said “you gotta read this, it’s hilarious.” Maybe you scanned the blurb, and it promised escapism, adventure and hinted at an intriguing plot. What lured you in was the anticipation of a feeling you wanted. A positive life enhancement. The benefit of reading it. 

It’s the same principle with tech products. PlayStation doesn’t advertise its VR headset by listing refresh rates, resolutions, processing power. While these might be impressive, they’re narrative nuances. Things to discover later, after purchase.  

What fires imaginations is being able to “Live the Game”. Of transforming fantasy into reality. This is the reason to buy a VR headset and the most useful piece of information. This is the grist for the trailer, the poster, the billboard. The good stuff. 

 What’s the reason to buy your tech product, distilled into a concise, emotionally resonant tagline? Once you strip away the jargon, supporting features, and behind the scenes stuff, you’ll find it. You’ll find the reason it matters to people. And you’ll remember why it truly matters to you too, because you’ll be back in that inspirational place of possibility, not product. An empathic return to innocence.

 This is the headspace your tech brand needs to be in to truly connect with people. Take the Nintendo Switch as an example. Nintendo knows that kids don’t give a flump about its ‘Nvidia custom Tegra processor’ with 4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53, 2x 32 Bit LPDDR4-1600 (25.6 GB/s, max. 4 GB), Maxwell-GPU (256 Shader, OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenGL 4.5, DirectX 11.2, CUDA 6.0), Dual ISP (1.3 GP/s), H.264/H.265 4K60 Encoding/Decoding, HDMI 2.0, eMMC 5.1.

No, no they don’t. Because this list of military grade features isn’t where the fun is at. They underpin performance, sure. The real fun, for kids (and adults), is in the flexibility of The Switch and the gaming immersion. 

Nintendo gets it and appeals directly to a simple, innocent feeling when it says “adventure anytime, anywhere.” This has universal vibes and gets right to the core of why The Switch is worth buying.  And once you’re in this simpler place, like Nintendo is, you can make a conscious decision to approach each piece of copy you write with awareness of your knowledge vs. the knowledge your audience has and what gets them going. It’s about looking at your brand, your ethos, your products, and services with fresh eyes and seeing what’s special.

It’s about uncovering your brilliance. 


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