The Curse of a Little Knowledge

Or, perhaps this should be called- Knowing Just Enough to  Cause You To Waste Time.

We can’t all know it all, especially in new media.  New applications and tools come online just about every day, making keeping up, let alone mastery, nearly impossible for any one person.  So we all need to decide, at some point, to narrow our focus and spend time becoming expert or at least skilled in our favorite tools and maximize how we can get our job done by working more efficiently, not necessarily longer or harder.

I often refer to this problem as “Knowing just enough to get myself in trouble or back myself into a corner.” And this means realizing that I am not getting the results I anticipated, so I need to explore ways to simplify what I do.  For example, I chose my hosting service based on reputation, and the fact that the software allowed me to build my website without taking courses in Dreamweaver, Frontpage, php or CSS.  In fact, when I built my website, I really didn’t know what any of those terms even meant.  However, now that I want to customize things, add features and go beyond the basics, I need to know more about the foundational steps I skipped.  Or, I need to find someone to outsource some of the work to, yet somehow learning along the way so I can still maintain a modicum of control and ability to customize and post things to my site.  I knew enough to get myself to this stage, but I don’t know enough to be able to take it to the next level without outside help.

Admitting What You Don’t Know, Yet Still Being Able to Help Others with What You Do Know

But this involves being able to admit when you are in over your depths, or finding someone willing to do an audit of your work flow to see if they can identify tools that might help you or save you time and aggravation.  This is tough, in and of itself, because if you don’t know there might be an easier and faster way to, for example, collect data, you can’t figure out who to ask for help in the first place.

A prime example of this is a friend of mine who owns a vet practice.  He is on the road seeing patients and clients all the time, but needs to maintain contact with his office.  Calls on the phone interrupt him from his work, and cost him time; his new call phone doesn’t let him access the web or documents quite the way he would like.  After just chatting for a few minutes on the phone, I knew that just by having his staff switch to text messaging him information from the office computer, instead of calling, would save him time right away.  Getting a personal hot spot could allow him to access his documents on his computer right away, and by using Google Docs, the forms could be available to him on the web, on demand, and equally available at the office at the same time.  And all of this technology (except the personal hotspot) would not require any more financial layout.

Likewise, a company I know was getting ready to collect data from a number of customers.  By getting them to use the great new Forms feature on Google Docs, this information would then be conveniently compiled with no extra work whatsoever.  30 minutes of form creation, hours of compiling and aggravation avoided.

The Curse of a Little Knowledge

The curse of a little knowledge is knowing what you need to do, but using old or inefficient tools to do the job, costing you time, money, profits, aggravation and more.  But in order to gain more knowledge, it requires that you can identify your bottle necks, and be willing to ask outsiders for help in the process, in order to raise you game.  And admitting you need help, let alone asking for it, is not always easy.

I want to find a better way not only to let people know what I know, but also to help people know what I need to know!

I think we are rapidly approaching the time in Social/New media where we can no longer know everything- we need to form guilds or pockets of specialists and experts that can help us improve our efforts.  Alex Hillman’s success with coworking at Indy Hall in Philadelphia is one example of this- by creating a co-working space, he has also created a loose association of business and project partners, available at his fingertips.

The difficulty is, of course, merging like-minded people into one physical space, since so many people working in new media full or part time are NOT located in the same geographic area.  Even while we establish strong on-line relationships, the face to face encounters at conferences like Podcamp help build the trust and reputation factors that let any co-working relationship thrive.  Working remotely is convenient, but it does make taking the measure of another person/business partner more difficult.

The one critical thing we all need, if we are willing to open up and admit what we do and do not know, is trust.  And I have found while I can extend relationships online, develop them and deepen them, there is nothing like a face to face meeting to cement the friendship.  Without that handshake and ability to connect, the trust is not as strong.  And if I am going to be totally honest with anyone, I need to know there is a sense of trust and relationship there, in order to open up and show someone what I do well, and not so well,  opening myself up to critique and possible embarrassment at the same time.

So the take home message today is that in order to reach the next level in any aspect of your life, you have to be vulnerable and able to admit what you do and do not know.  In business, or even in personal relationships, you can’t feign knowledge very long, and the trust you gain with being honest is vital.

Welcome to the world of not knowing it all.  It’s actually a great place, with great people and resources.  You just have to be willing to pay the price, which is giving up on being the jack of all trades, but the master of none, and be willing to specialize.

What do you think?

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