Thursday, July 11, 2013

Being An Expert Can Stifle Creativity, Innovation, Inventiveness

Mitchell Osak, of Quanta Consulting Inc., writes about innovation block at the Financial Post:
Conventional wisdom says that possessing deep subject matter expertise is a prerequisite for organizations looking to innovate. Yet, when product managers, technologists or innovation gatekeepers have too much knowledge their preconceived notions or experiences can prevent breakthrough solutions from emerging.
This common psychological state – we call it the ‘curse of expertise’ – is considered by psychologists and behavioral economists to be a harmful cognitive bias, preventing some individuals and teams from finding and implementing ‘out of the box’ innovations. 
Every scientist experiences this at some point. Fortunately, Osak offers a few tips for surmounting this blocking effect, with one ideally suited to research teams:
Find the right data.  Innovative thinking often gets kiboshed by experts based on their – nebulous, out-of-date, or unverified – opinions. Indeed, gut feel has an important place in decision-making. Highly innovative companies, however, emphasize the primacy of holistic and credible data, especially that from consumers, over opinion.  Two effective ways of getting good data is through undertaking proper qualitative and quantitative research, and conducting ‘quick and dirty,’ measurable experiments.
To add to that, remember that small experiments with good experimental design are much more useful than huge ones with little or no structure.