07 January 2008

The curse of knowledge

Last winter, I wrote the May2007 issue of New Next in which I interviewed Heron. Now a full-timer at Naked New York, he was initially hired as an intern. The column focused on choosing your interns wisely, sort of, but also spoke about how we like to hire people at Naked:

The hiring is very strategic here - Naked celebrates diversity of experience in a calculated way. Another intern is from Luxembourg and speaks six languages; we have youth culture and entertainment marketing experts; we have digital jacks-of-all-trades; we have management and research veterans; we have creative strategists, and lots more. With all of us coming from interesting places and having strengths in interlinked areas, we can pool resources to develop more well-rounded (and less generic) solutions to our clients' business issues.

Whether you're hiring an intern, a junior or anybody else, always keep your eyes open for the brilliant misfits. You might find them straight out of school, breaking out of a traditional agency or at a recording studio. The key is to look for good people rather than a skill set. Young people are eager to consume and produce stimuli; they have unrestrained and untainted views on the changes that happen every day in our industry. This new generation has fast-forward futures ahead. If you ignore them, you surely will have a future behind you.

I just read a semi-recent article in the NYTimes about the "curse of knowledge" : "...a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated." We have since hired a Clinical Psychologist and someone with an advanced degree in Cultural Studies, among others... they always have interesting things to say and angles from which they approach situations; we also don't have to worry about hearing things like "user generated content" or "paradigm shift" ;)

The article is fascinating and looks at this topic in a way I hadn't thought of before. My favorite line is "When experts have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and, as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems."" I frequently have noticed that when explaining something I know a lot about to someone who doesn't, I get really excited and want to fly out of the room to do something, anything... go to a museum, write a letter to someone, play my piano, etc. I wonder if it's because while I'm doing said thing (typing code, trying to write a strategy, etc.), I am too far into the familiar "process" to really think about what makes up what I'm doing. Thus, breaking it down helps me remember everything that makes it up, and I get excited all over again. Does this happen to any of you?

Check out Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike here (I found out about it - unsurprisingly! - from Creative Generalist).

[The image is called Song in a Minor Key from Snailbooty on Flickr... it was on the first results page when I typed in "minor key," something I'm mildly obsessed with that I often find myself explaining to people (and as a result getting excited /inspired /flying out of the room)] Apparently s/he had a problem with my using the image (or maybe not), but Song in a Minor Key is private now. Searching "most interesting" under "schema" (another love of mine) produced this cute Fiat model photo, from parri67's photo stream. _
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