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The one simple mistake that keeps you from moving ahead

There’s a difference between intelligence and knowledge. Intelligence is our ability to process, understand, analyze and think. Knowledge is the specific information we possess and have proficiency in. We can understand how an airplane works but we need actual experience to fly one.

In many arenas that distinction is clear – when you board a Boeing 777 to fly across country you don’t stop off at the cockpit to offer suggestions to the pilot. You take your seat.

The mistake that we all make – and one that I see keeping so many people (myself included) making – is when we allow our intelligence to get in the way of allowing someone else with greater knowledge to help us move ahead.

I’m working with a client right now who is doing just this. He’s hired me to rethink and rebuild his online presence – multiple websites that promote his expertise as a photographer. One of the platforms we are using is Photoshelter. This is a pretty robust system that has been developed to allow photographers to display, promote and sell their work. It has all the tools and elements required. It has been designed by experts with a lot of knowledge in the space.

The site uses theme templates and a fairly rigid syntax. You have a portfolio, your collection of images is called an “archive” and so on. The templates are designed to show these different elements to the site visitor in a balance of function and aesthetics.

My client – who is very intelligent and has a lot of knowledge about what it means to be a photographer – lacks expertise (knowledge) about contemporary web design, UX, user behavior and analytics. It is fair to say that the designers at Photoshelter know a LOT more about these things than he does.

Nevertheless, my client is frustrated by the inflexibility of the provided themes. He wants things to have different nomenclature, to be positioned differently, to function in a way that his intelligence is suggesting would be better.

Guess what – he’s wrong.

The one simple mistake he is making is believing that he knows better than the people who designed the system. He is desperate to tell the pilot how to fly the 777. He assumes that he knows better even though he has no experience in UX, no access to user-data, and no comparable history to draw from. It’s fair to say that some of his ideas may have some validity but he is missing the forest for the trees. His goal – his ONLY goal – is to launch a website that connects people to his work so he can profit from it. That’s it. The people at Photoshelter have expressly created, and optimized, systems for people like him to do JUST THAT.

Don’t make this mistake.  Believe it or not that surgeon, that pilot, that web designer, that accountant – the experts you hire to help you move ahead – know more about the topic than you do. Sure, you can tap into their knowledge, gain more yourself and argue a point but don’t let it get in the way of moving ahead. It’s a waste of your time – and theirs.