How to Avoid Becoming "Expert Blind"

We're all practitioners of a craft. Sometimes, we're experts without even knowing it.

Dentists know how to spot the first signs of gingivitis on any given Tuesday. Truckers know what to do to stay away in the middle of the night on lengthy cross-country road trips. Wildlife photographers are skilled at switching between settings, quickly, because it makes the difference between getting the shot...and getting paid.

There's one story that I particularly love, from a guy who visited the deli section of his local Walmart late one night. 

"Hi, I'd like a pound of applewood smoked ham, thin sliced." 

"You want that cut 1 or 2?"
"Do I...what?" 

"I said – do you want that cut 1 or 2?" 

The woman working behind the deli was tired and irritated, hoping to leave before she missed her bus home. The customer was left frustrated and frazzled, unsure what he was missing out on and feeling as though the burden of his order was getting in her way.

As it turns out, "1" and "2" are settings on the meat slicer, corresponding to two variations in thickness. The lady behind the deli counter knew the difference; the customer in front of the deli counter did not. 

The same troubling effect can rear its head when it comes to content, especially when you're the creator of a product or the engineer tasked with building a website, app, or other device from the ground up. When we're so deep in the trenches of our own practice, we become fluent in a language that makes sense to us, building up heuristics or mental shortcuts for describing the way something functions. However, when it comes time to sell, we forget that everyone else is a layman, a beginner to the language we're so familiar with. 

Febreze has a commercial that elegantly demonstrates this effect. 

A homeowner or apartment dweller invites a guest into their home. The guest immediately wrinkles their nose at the scent of something offensive – a litter box filled with six cats or a fish market right in the middle of their kitchen. The unknowing host doesn't get it. They've been living among the smell for so long that their nose can't tell the difference between something putrid and something pleasurable.

"Don't be nose blind", the commercial's tagline says.


When it comes to writing content, it's critical to hire a second pair of eyes to either write or proofread what you've written, so as to avoid you becoming "expert blind". This person should be able to work as a translator between your area of expertise, the idea you're trying to convey in its simplest terms, and what it means for everyone else. When our hands are busy building, it's easy to talk in specifics without realizing the benefits that can live within the big picture. 

That's why content specialists are so important – they work to get you out of your own head so that the product can project value among diverse users, rather than a narrow segment of "maybe" buyers. 

Don't be expert blind. Instead, practice giving your content the care it deserves so that it can serve as an eye-opener to many, rather than one.