The Curse


Hopefully the subject line didn’t arouse any superstitious fears. However, the Curse of Expertise is real and could be limiting you more than you know.  

For those not familiar with the term, the Curse of Expertise is when someone with a particular background or expertise in a subject area consciously or unconsciously assumes the person they are communicating with has the background knowledge to understand what they’re talking about. 

Everyone possesses knowledge and expertise in something.  This expertise is often rooted in a passion or years of an amazing learning journey. You’ve earned that expertise and you should absolutely share it. 

Unfortunately I’d be willing to bet, far more often than we’d like to admit, many of us fail miserably when it comes to sharing our unique expertise in such a way so that anyone could understand. 

The Curse of Expertise shows up in so many areas:

  • How team members are onboarded and trained. Most create an environment of on the job training, which, by itself means “we hope you’ll figure it out.”
  • Getting potential clients to understand the value of services offered.  Easily digestible, simplistic education is paramount to closing the deal, yet many over elaborate and inundate with superfluous details.
  • Explaining what you do in networking conversations and meetups.  And end up sounding like 20 other people in the room.  
  • How customers are educated on process, products, and service. Hope becomes the plan instead of strategic guidance and transparency.

Mr. Jobs gets it right with this quote:

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. – Steve Jobs

Imagine a world where all of your stakeholders (team, customers, partners) unequivocally knew your value, your process, and your methodology.  Mr. J also notes how hard this can be to achieve.  Some come by it more naturally, while others (stricken with the Curse of Expertise) have to work very hard to get there.  But, it’s an effort worth fighting for, because when you get it right, you can in fact move mountains.  

This is a big focus for me.  I have many miles to go before I’ve refined my model to its most simplistic essence.  Perhaps I should start a support group called Experts Anonymous to help fight the curse. I’ll add that to the to-do list. 

In the meantime, send me a one-liner of your unique value proposition or position in 5 words words or less.  I’ll shoot you some feedback and I’d love to share (with permission) for inspiration to others in a future newsletter.  

That’s all for today, Happy Spring!  


“The Backboard” 
Growth and Culture Advisor

New Members

I’d like to welcome Jay, Cole, and Joey with The Virtual Wild as the most recent Performance Faction member.  TVW is an immersive and experiential digital agency.  They’ve done some pretty cool projects, check ’em out!  

Helpful Content

Speaking of expertise.  A great book on the subject is “The Business of Expertise” by David Baker.  There are some wonderful nuggets for anyone in the expertise business.