The Paradox of Expertise

Why did no one in the taxi industry create a phone app to improve the ride ordering process (Uber)? Why didn’t Sear’s dominate online sales (Amazon)?  Why didn’t the Big Three auto companies design the first really innovative electric car (Tesla)?

Expertise and experience should be a competitive advantage when it comes to innovation. Yet, the most experienced people are oftentimes blind to new opportunities.

It’s called the “paradox of expertise​” – the more closely a person is immersed in an industry, the more successful they’ve been in a company or a profession, the harder it can be to see new patterns, prospects, and possibilities.

In fact, studies show “experts” are no better at predicting their industry’s future than actuarial tables.

One way to avoid the paradox of expertise is to cultivate new knowledge, drawing inspiration from other industries and collective insights. Leaders who neglect to be learners plateau. The best leaders are almost always insatiable learners.

“Am I learning as fast as the world is changing?,”​ is a question I put to myself daily and one I encourage all leaders, wherever they are in an organization, to ask themselves too.