Hiring experts is not enough

When faced with a challenge, organisations often turn to the leading experts for answers. This is logical, but it’s not always the smartest thing to do.

While experts have the knowledge and experience to judge new ideas, they also tend to have a major flaw. Experts tend to have lots of assumptions. Their extensive experience has taught them what works. Anything else will likely be disregarded.

Having experts look at your problem is great, but it’s not enough. You also need someone to ask the silly questions. Someone naïve enough to question the obvious and suggest unusual solutions. You need people who know nothing about the subject.

When we assemble a Creative ThinkTank, we always select two very different groups. The first group consists of experts. Members of this group have extensive knowledge of the subject or at the very least know much about a part of it. The problem owner and the stakeholders also reside in this group. They know about the everyday practice and can judge the feasibility of a new idea. Another reason the problem owner and stakeholders should always be present at the problemsolving session is acceptance. After all, in the end, they have to make sure the solution is implemented.

The second group we invite is rather different from the first. The participants in this group are selected on the basis that they know little or nothing about the subject at hand. They should be people with entirely unrelated backgrounds, specialities and professions. Are you looking for a way to unload cargo from a container ship faster? Bring in a surgeon, an architect, a taxi driver, a pilot and a police officer. New perspectives and fresh insights will be guaranteed.

There are two main reasons why you should consider bringing in people from unrelated fields:

  1. They will ask ‘silly’ questions and offer uncommon solutions. This will help to challenge the prevalent assumptions. Is there really just one way to do this right? Often this is not the case. Not knowing something is hardly ever a problem. You can learn about it. Thinking you know something, however, is very dangerous. If you’re certain you know something, you will not ask any questions. This might well lead you down a treacherous path.
  2. Participants with different backgrounds might know about solutions in unrelated fields, that can revolutionise your business. Other branches might already have tackled a similar problem. It’d be foolish not to utilise the effort others have already put into it.

In conclusion; you should definitely put experts on the job, but make sure they work with people from different fields. They keep everybody sharp by asking ‘dumb’ questions, by challenging assumptions and by offering unusual approaches.

Have you ever gotten a valuable insight from someone that was unfamiliar with your field of expertise? Or did you ever help someone with a different profession by giving unusual advice? Please let me know in the comment box below, I’d love to hear your stories.

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