Thursday, December 1, 2011

Expertise as a limiting agent - The Paradox

Expertise [ˌɛkspɜːˈtiːz] n
Special skill, knowledge, or judgment; expertness
We have often experienced the rigidity that comes with experience and knowledge. When it comes to people with "work experience", an important question to ask is it's effectiveness ( or ineffectiveness ) in influencing the future of an organization. Bill Taylor has highlighted this in a very well articulated blog post. He quotes the work (The innovation killer) of Cynthia Barton Rabe to explain the paradox of expertise and Vuja De' (The flip side of déjà vu).

Paradox of Expertise
Many organizations, she argues, struggle with a "paradox of expertise" in which deep knowledge of what exists in a marketplace or a product category makes it harder to consider what-if strategies that challenge long-held assumptions. "When it comes to innovation," she writes, "the same hard-won experience, best practice, and processes that are the cornerstones of an organization's success may be more like millstones that threaten to sink it."
Vuja De'
Or, to put it differently, the most effective leaders demonstrate a capacity for vuja dé. We've all experienced déjà vu — looking at an unfamiliar situation and feeling like you've seen it before. Vuja dé is the flip side of that — looking at a familiar situation (a field you've worked in for decades, products you've worked on for years) as if you've never seen it before, and, with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future. If you believe, as I do, that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders becomes: How do you look at your organization and your field as if you are seeing them for the first time?
The bottom-line is...
You can't let what you know limit what you can imagine. As you try to do something special, exciting, important in your work, as you work hard to devise creative solutions to stubborn problems, don't just look to other organizations in your field (or to your past successes) for ideas and practices