Entrepreneurship and The Curse of Knowledge

A recent article in the New York Times purported that as we acquire more knowledge, our creativity and our ability to innovate diminishes. The reason is the Curse of Knowledge: “The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly to others.” In addition, once someone acquires a certain amount of knowledge in a given area, the more difficult it becomes to see outside the box of the self-made constructs they’ve created to deepen their understanding.

It’s a powerful argument and it seems to be borne out if you look at many venture capitalists: they rarely invest in companies started by anyone past their 30s. VCs are looking for people with bold ideas that can be evangelized and clearly communicated to others. There’s more on this youth/knowledge/entrepreneurial thing here.

The world needs both experts and entrepreneurs, so I don’t think this is a bad thing. In addition, you have to keep in mind that while the intrepidity and impetuousness of youth might tip the scale to younger entrepreneurs, over 9 out of 10 new start-ups still fail—many because they lacked the expertise or experience needed to have a shot at success. In addition, people of all ages start successful businesses every year. However, the venture capitalists (or at least technology VCs), are more interested in finding those that have enough wow factor to become the next Google, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.

Several of the links above also refer to ways to stay creative and innovative. Two of them mention the book, Made to Stick by the brothers Healy. The book is a great read and their six-steps to communicating a new idea is a powerful lesson for entrepreneurs and others of all ages.

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