November 23, 2020

The expert’s trap

Teaching a child

When an expert tackles a problem, they have many advantages, and also some disadvantages.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki

As we learn more about a topic, we lose a beginner’s perspective and their access to solutions we can’t imagine because our expertise makes us selectively blind. Assumptions become hard-wired into our expert selves, and we don’t notice what they do to our thinking.

The truth is that sometimes we don’t look where we should look, we don’t ask the questions we should ask, and we don’t try what we should try, because our assumptions mean we think it’s pointless to do so.

Are you struggling with a problem?

Adopt a beginner’s mindset.

Find a beginner and explain the problem to them.

You will have to explain the problem in a different way to how you think about it, which will provide new avenues to explore.

They will ask questions which might seem stupid given your hard-wired assumptions, but what can those questions reveal about your blind spot?

Escape the expert’s trap.

My best wishes, Paul

Paul Matthews

CEO and Founder of People Alchemy

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