Why kill the experts? Because experts kill curiosity and ultimately innovation. Who are the experts? We all are! What makes us the experts? The sum of all of our experiences that have had anything to do with intellectual performance. What can you do about your inner expert?
There are two types of experts inside all of us that need to be killed.
THE ANSWER EXPERT
The first one is the “answer expert”. In early childhood, we asked a lot of questions. Why? Because we didn’t have the answers. Result? Our minds expanded quickly.
When we entered the education system, we received gold stars, recognition and good grades when we answered questions correctly. Later, we were able to get into a good college because we were able to answer enough questions correctly on the entrance exam. We got our first job out of college because we had the right answers in the interviews. We were recognized as a strong performer because we had the right answers in meetings. We eventually were promoted, and then promoted again, and again, until…here we are today. How? Because we focused on having the right answers instead of asking the right questions. Result? Our titles grew while our minds stopped expanding.
Congratulations, we’re answer experts.
This conditioning of always needing to have the rights answers may be good for professional advancement, but it’s an innovation killer. We’re experts in answers only. That makes us terrible at innovation. If we’re going to be great innovators who are able to model the innovator’s mindset and eventually create a culture of innovation, we have to kill the part of us that feels dutifully obligated to always have the right answers, and revive that part of our minds that asks the right questions.
The first question is NEVER the right question, so ask a ton of them and eventually the right question will be asked!
THE SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT
The second type of expert that we must eliminate is the “subject matter expert”. Studies have shown the MORE expertise we have in a particular subject matter, the more rigid our knowledge networks are and the less likely we are to generate original breakthrough ideas, or to push the project team members far enough to generate breakthrough ideas as a team. What’s more, the L O N G E R we are an expert in a particular subject, the less likely we will be to recognize the value of what we uncover as golden nuggets of insights in the Understand Stage of the innovation process that could lead to amazing ideas. Being subject matter experts places us at a pre-existing disadvantage for discovering game-changing innovation because we simply know too much.
In the beginning stage of the innovation process we must have a beginner’s mind if we are truly going to discover what brilliance might lie ahead. In other words, when it comes to the innovation process, we must forget everything we know about everything we know.
IN THE END, forget about being the person who has to have all the answers and be the leader who models for his or her team that we learn the most when we know the least.