Chauffeur’s Knowledge Trap


Have you ever been called to share your views on something you are not an expert at?

Have you ever delivered a lecture with limited knowledge?

How was your experience?

Have you ever heard of Chauffeur’s Knowledge Trap ?

Here’s a story of a nobel prize laureate and his chauffeur.

Mr. Max Planck, nobel prize laureate of 1918, used to travel to different places to deliver lectures on ‘Quantum theory’. During one such travel to a university, the chauffeur told Mr. Planck that he has heard his lecture so many times and he remembers every point he makes during his lecture. And he is so sure that he can deliver the lecture without any problem. Listening to him Mr. Planck told him that no one from that university knows him and when they reach the university chauffeur can introduce himself as Mr. Planck and he will do a role reversal. Before reaching the campus of the university they exchanged their cloths. Mr. Planck put on chauffeur’s cap and the chauffeur wore Mr. Planck’s coat and got seated on the back seat.

Mr. Planck drove him to the gate of the auditorium and they were received and greeted by the university chancellor and other professors. After exchanging pleasantries they went inside the auditorium and they were surprised to see the auditorium full of students. Mr. Planck (the fake chauffeur) was given a seat on in the last row and the chauffeur (fake Mr. Planck) started delivering his talk. He performed exceptionally well and for next two hour there was pin drop silence in the auditorium as everyone was so engrossed in his lecture. There was a big round of applause when he finished his lecture.

The twist in the story

The personified Mr. Planck, the chauffeur was about leave the podium when one of the professors raised his hand and asked him a very complex question which needed thorough mastery on mathematical equations and formulas. He was stunned as he had never expected a question from the audience nor any question was ever asked to Mr. Planck when he himself delivered his lectures. He needed to answer the question as unanswered question would have raised doubts on Mr. Planck’s quantum theory and would have dented his image.

He thought for a while, smiled and told the professor that his question was so simple that even his chauffeur can answer it. Mr. Planck (the fake chauffeur) took the podium and answered the question with very complex mathematical equations and formulas. After answering the question Mr. Planck left in hurry and drove his chauffeur out of the university and swore never to repeat this in his life.

Chauffeur’s Knowledge is half knowledge as they say, “Half knowledge is dangerous, either be ignorant or be excellent.”  To acquire Planck’s knowledge first you need to understand the difference between both the types, Planck’s knowledge and Chauffeur’s knowledge.  Following is the difference between the two:

Chauffeur Knowledge Trap www.rohitdhir


“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

With the spread of social media and 24X7 TV channels, we follow a number of journalists and News anchors and depending upon our interests we believe everything they say on economy, investments, foreign affairs and a number of topics. Journalists and news anchors need not be experts on various topics and most of them behave as Chauffeurs with limited knowledge which they acquire from either listening to their competitors or unconfirmed sources of information. To be successful it becomes very important to come out of Chauffeur Knowledge Trap and establishing ones authenticity.

Coming out of Chauffeur’s Knowledge Trap

One can acquire Planck’s knowledge and come out of Chauffeur’s knowledge trap by using following strategies:

Know your circle of competence:

The first step to come out of chauffeur knowledge trap is to know your circle of competence. Once you have found out your circle try and stay within your circle of competence, even if it’s small. You can keep enlarging it by acquiring more knowledge.

Develop habit of reading books:

From the time immemorial it has been commonly understood that the best way to acquire knowledge is to read. Click here to learn how to develop habit of reading books.

Attend training programs and seminars:

Training programs and seminars led by experts focuses on specific topics or skills. These programs typically takes place over the course of few days and involve cooperative discussions, opportunities to share perspectives and issues related to the topic.

The principle of Implementation and its impact on learning:

Early implementation of what you learnt will enhance your learning by four times (4X) where as delayed implementation or no implementation of what you learnt will reduce your learning to one fourth (1/4). Implementation is the key.

Write! Writing, to knowledge, is a certified check:

As they say, “To know it- write it!” To write, you will need to read as you can’t be a great writer unless you are familiar with great writing. Writing a blog keeps you updated on all new developments on a certain topic/subject. Your quest to update your blog with new content will lead you to always be searching for new information/knowledge and sharing it with your readers.

There Are No Short Cuts to acquire knowledge:

Acquiring knowledge takes time, discipline and sincere efforts. Following poem written by English poet, Alexander Pope, sums up this beautifully:

“A little learning is a dangerous thing. 

Drink Deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

And drinking largely sobers us again.”

In this poem Alexander Pope says that little learning or knowledge (the shallow draughts) will only confuse (intoxicate the brain), misleading us into thinking that we know more than, in fact, we do. Remedy to this problem lies in continuously learning (drink largely at the Pierian Spring- which is source of knowledge of art and science).

Hope you enjoyed reading this. Keep learning!