Power of pride part 2: Business?

I’ve been thinking about an earlier post on experts and the method described to try to overcome communication\clarity issues at the expert level. Rather than rehash, please see that post.

Would a method like the one proposed work in a corporate setting? In an academic setting, it seems doable but somehow unlikely. In the business world it goes from unlikely to improbable for several reasons. Let’s try to do a one to one transfer to a business setting. First, who plays the role of students? It is one thing to act as a student in class but what employee really is going to want to have to step up and show they don’t know something, possibly in front of their boss? Second, who plays the expert roles? You probably have someone who could do the instructional expert role. In the case where some important decision is being made there should be someone who is championing it and has a good grasp (though this is by no means guaranteed). What about the other experts who are supposed to be listening in as experts to gain insight? What is their basis for being an expert? In some cases they may be qualified but in many they won’t. There is an assumption that executives should have developed expertise across a number of domains but that certainly isn’t factual. This is both an internal and external assumption in that both the executive and those around him/her expect it to be the case. Even for those who have some grounding, is it sufficient to be called an expert? This reinforces the need for going through the basics work prior to getting to the important point while also reinforcing that going through the basics is going to be viewed as insulting. Third, how do you get the time to make a method like this work? Even in a single area in a firm it can be difficult to get time to go over the whatever the important point is without the basics. How do you get enough executive time to add to that to go through the basics? Fourth, how do you know when the point is sufficiently important to go to this level of effort?

The problem space for the general problem of lack of clarity due to insufficient basics work caused by the potentially insulting nature includes ideas like: How do you get people to let go of perceived expertise and allow them to work through the basics? and How do you get them to participate at all?

I don’t have a good idea yet for a workable solution in the business space. Like the method above, the ideas I come up with seem unlikely to prove workable.

PS – This isn’t to suggest that there are no cases in business where the basics aren’t reviewed prior to getting to the important point.

PPS – I do recognize that it is rational for an actor to want to protect status in a given situation. That is part of what I am referring to in the problem space of ‘allowing’ working through the basics.

PPPS – If this is all a bit mucky consider a simplistic example in which a CFO is making a case for altering the financial structure of the firm. The important point is whether new structure X is better than existing structure Y. Is it likely in this case that the C level staff (and maybe the board) would do anything other than debate that particular point? Now consider the academic method discussed in the earlier post. Who would be willing to act as the students (employees?) in this case as the C level staff sat on the sidelines (interjecting as experts) while the CFO took the students through the basics of financial engineering specific to this decision prior to explaining his/her rationale for why structure X is better than structure Y. It just doesn’t sound very likely. What alternative method would achieve the results?


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