When Expertise Kills Innovation

Innovation isn't about what you know but what you don't

Expertise is valuable. To be successful, you want to be seen as an expert. Being an experts validates your worth, and provides a sense of certainty. In terms of innovation, expertise leads to incrementalism; or sustaining innovation.

But while valuable, expertise is a huge disadvantage when it’s time to change the game.

Let me give you an example. At Netek we’re exploring an opportunity to build another product, separate from Neurosurvey, to help companies measure customer and employee engagement and satisfaction. A prospect inquired about using our emotion recognition technology to help them measure employee engagement in their organization.

I reached out to a friend who runs a psychometric company, they’ve built many tests to measure various things. One focuses on measuring how engaged employees are with their work. His company has done psychometric tests for a long time, and creating these tests is a long and rigorous process; one I’ve experienced firsthand. The potential of creating an employee engagement test with emotion recognition technology is appealing, they get it, but we don’t see eye to eye in how to get there.

From our perspective, we approach this challenge with a blank slate and believe it requires a rethinking of how these tests are created; but they can’t see that because they’re stuck in their ways.

We want to move fast and experiment, think about the ways the technology could change they way people interact with these tests. They want to go through their drawn out process; approach it like they’ve always done.

This is the challenge of expertise.

Embracing fresh perspective

Innovation has many enemies, expertise is one of them. Experts only know the way that got them there. They want to give answers, but innovation requires new questions. These new questions can only be asked by shifting ones perspective, a job outsiders are perfectly positioned for. Outsiders are the ones who change the game because they’re not blinded by expertise; they approach the situation from a new perspective.

Companies, just like people, exploit their competence up to the point where it makes them irrelevant. Behind expertise is the need for certainty, but your need for certainty kills innovation.

Emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, will drive the Next Economy. This means all businesses, existing and non-existent, will have an emerging technology at their core. Every new technology fundamentally changes the way you’ve always done things. For existing businesses, this means you have to consider the implications of what this means for you; it’s not about doing what you do the same way you’ve always done.

Most people and companies are stuck running in a hamster wheel; they’re just running. They don’t know they need to change direction, or jump off the wheel, until it’s too late. Believe me, established companies across the world would be better equipped to transform is they aware of the limitations of their expertise.

When you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, you get the same results. Technology, when well used, gives us exponentially better outcomes.

Bottom line: Innovation isn’t about what you know, but what you don’t.

Next Article

The Best Management Is No Management