Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Fuzzy statements - another outcome of the "curse of knowledge"


that fuzzy feeling! I blogged yesterday about SOTBOs - Statements of the Blindingly Obvious, and how you often find these in explicit knowledge bases and lessons learned systems, as a by-product of the "curse of knowledge".

There is a second way in which this curse strikes, and that is what I call "fuzzy statements".

It's another example of how somebody writes something down as a way of passing on what they have learned, and writes it in such a way that it is obvious to them what it means, but carries very little information to the reader.

A fuzzy statement is an unqualified adjective, for example
  • Set up a small, well qualified team...(How small? 2 people? 20 people? How well qualified? University professors? Company experts? Graduates?)
  • Start the study early....(How early? Day 1 of the project? Day 10? After the scope has been defined?)
  • A tighter approach to quality is needed. (Tighter than what? How tight should it be?)
You can see, in each case, the writer has something to say, but hasn't really said enough for the reader to understand what to do, other than in a generic "fuzzy" way.

In each case, the facilitator of the session or the validator of the knowledge base needs to ask additional questions. How small? How early? How tight?

Again, it comes back to Quality Control.

Any lessons management system or knowledge base suffers from garbage In, Garbage Out, and the unfortunate effect of the Curse of Knowledge is that people's first attempt to communicate knowledge is often, as far as the reader is concerned, garbage.
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