Knowing Vs Doing: The LinkedIn Error

Are you on LinkedIn? I’ve been laughing this week at their “endorsement” feature and the way the computer system behind it is trying to guess what I do.

Now, I know I’m pretty rubbish at describing what I do. As my friend Ben Wilson gently said to me recently, as feedback on my websites: “Although I read most of your stuff, I haven’t quite got the message of under what circumstances I should be calling you to work with you.”

But in the last week, several people have endorsed me for “sp**ch writing”. Really? I’ve never knowingly written a speech.

And I suppose I do know about how it would be done, in theory…

The experience reminded me that LinkedIn’s endorsement system has fundamental problem. It completely conflates knowledge and skill.

It asks: “Does Judy Rees know about speech writing?” And then, when one of my contacts kindly clicks “Endorse”, it tells me: “So-and-so has endorsed you for a skill.”

But knowing about something doesn’t mean I can do it! having the facts at my fingertips doesn’t mean I can actually use them in practice!

I know a whole lot about marketing, internet marketing in particular. I know that being very specific about what one does, particularly as a coach, makes marketing oneself a whole lot easier.

As a coach, I’ve helped plenty of coaches and consultants to get crystal clear about what they do, who they serve, and why they do it – to find their commercial sweet spot.

And am I successfully doing it for myself? Not even slightly 🙂

Meanwhile the stuff I’m doing most successfully – writing this blog and the associated newsletter, for example – is not the kind of thing I “know” about. I just get on with it.

There are some things I both know about and do well. Clean Language coaching, for example. But that doesn’t make the muddle any more sensible.

Of course, LinkedIn has its own reasons for phrasing its questions in the way that it does. It makes its money through advertising, and if it can get me to repeatedly go to the site to reject endorsements, it’s getting the clicks it wants.

But if the aim had been to build information about its members’ skills, it should be asking a different question. “Can Judy Rees actually do sp**ch writing?”

Now, here’s an even more interesting point. What happens when you conflate knowledge and skill? It’ll have a major impact on your ability to learn skills. More on this here.

  • I’m blanking out a couple of letters in sp**ch writing just in case the data munchers notice it here – and link it to my name even more firmly 🙂

2 thoughts on “Knowing Vs Doing: The LinkedIn Error”

  1. And the other LinkedIn specialty is to have people that I’ve never met endorsing me for things I’ve never done.

  2. Rhana Pytell


    I love the endorsements for skills I have, from people I know, but who have no direct experience of my level of skill. It is watering down the “endorsement” feature.

    Could it be that the algorithm in LI is predicting our futures skills?

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