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Experiment Like An Expert

| | Personal Leadership

Experiment Like An Expert post image

It’s been said that the three most limiting words used together are “I know that!”

There’s a lot of pressure, and even hype, out there about the need to be or become an expert.  Of course, to be perceived as an expert you need to know something about your area of expertise.

“Expert” also implies some depth of knowledge and understanding, as well as expertise in applying it.

Except, I’ll suggest being an expert isn’t just about knowing. It’s not just what you know or how much you know.  It has as much to do with your ability to think and apply what you learn and experience over time in service of an outcome or possibility.  For example, you can expose 10 people with the same IQ to the exact same knowledge and they still won’t “know” all the same things or apply that knowledge in the same way.

Recently I noticed I had unwittingly fallen into the “but I don’t know enough” trap.  I realized in an area where I did not believe I had enough knowledge. I kept learning new things from “the experts” hoping I would at some point know enough to proceed confidently.  I can see now that I had begun to relate to some of my “ready, fire, aim” experiments (that in hindsight turned out to be more “ready, fire, OOPS!”) as failures rather than experiments from which I actually learned and grew.  At some point I no longer gave myself permission to experiment by thinking, “By now I should know how.”

So I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you:

STOP trying to figure it all out and START experimenting!

You can easily get hung up on trying to do things perfectly the first time. You can stop yourself from acting because you think you need to know more before you can start.  It is an illusion to think that at some point you will magically be able to say, “I know enough.” Until you take action you will never really know what you do know and what you need to learn next to succeed.

Sure it takes courage, but the best way to learn is to start from where you are and take a next step.

The key is to take that next step with a clear intention for what you want to accomplish or manifest in mind.  You may even set a short-term goal and think through your approach. But recognize that as you begin to experiment you may tweak or even change your goal or approach.  Consider that this is a sign that you are learning.  You may also choose to stop and declare an “oops” when you realize you are headed in the wrong direction or the direction you chose wasn’t taking you where you really want to go after all.

If you consistently take action consciously and deliberately in service of a heartfelt intention you will continue to discover and learn something you didn’t know you didn’t know. These discoveries will keep you on the path to success even though it will likely not be a straight line.

Experience is truly the best teacher. If you see a child fall down you don’t yell at them because they fell down, do you? No, you celebrate and encourage them to get back up. You know that each time they fall they are actually one step closer to walking.

Even the “experts” are experimenting and learning because there is always more to learn, to know and to invent. Relax and jump into an experiment with both feet. You may even end up teaching the “experts” something.

What will your next experiment be?

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Steve   |   29 January 2013   |   Reply

Great post Susan. Reminded me about how I came to find Appreciative Inquiry and then experiment with it, with clients’ permission, to good effect. My expertise has developed deeply over 12 years (I’d never call myself an expert!) and continues to grow. In fact, each new assignment still has that sense of experimentation, i.e. we know the processes but not the outcomes.

Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Appreciative Inquiry is a wonderful example of a practice that provokes experimentation. Interesting to me Steve that with 12 years of deeply developing your expertise in AI you would refrain from calling yourself an expert…probably means you actually are because you likely have that healthy relationship with all you don’t know that only comes from mastery. There is a lot of baggage around the term “expert”!

btw in case you don’t already know/follow Robyn Stratton Berkessel (@robbiecat on twitter) she has published a great book and a few apps on applying Appreciative Inquiry http://www.positivematrix.com

Christopher Avery   |   29 January 2013   |   Reply

Right on point Susan. There is a lot of support these days for empirical thinking over rational thinking.

Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Thanks Christopher. Empirical vs ration – exactly! I appreciate how you always offer great distinctions.

Stefan Powell   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Such a wonderful reminder of the benefits of getting started. The way in which I developed people I worked and lead 10 years ago has many changes but that does not devalue the benefits that were seen at the time or the value that we add with additional experience. Thank you for sharing. Stefan

Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Thank you Stefan. We are most definitely never done becoming an expert. I think one of the things that marks a true expert is that they recognize just how much they don’t know and are quite comfortable in the ever expanding knowledge gap!

Sharon Gilmour-Glover   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

This post really resonated with me. The whole notion of “expert” seems to imply, at least to me, a complete knowing. You said it beautifully when you caught yourself thinking that you knew enough about something already. I don’t know if that is possible and for me, I hope I never feel like I know everything. How boring!

As I was reading your post, I found myself thinking about an article I read in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago called, “The Innovators DNA”. The authors identify “experimenting” as one of 5 skills natural innovators apply regularly.

Thanks for the great content you publish on your blog.

Cheers,
Sharon

Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

“I hope I never feel like I know everything. How boring!” — I am with you Sharon. Read a great article this morning by Wendy Appel this morning on a similar theme – The Essential Role of Curiosity http://www.wendyappel.com/the-essential-role-of-curiosity/

Thanks for sharing about The Innovators DNA – I am going to check that out.

Glad you find value here Sharon!

Carl   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Great post Susan – I don’t have a problem seeing the expertise in others, but when folks point to me…….. I can’t see it.
I usually just tell them – it means I’ve made many, more mistakes than you – and I try not to make the same ones twice.

Thank you for your work
Regards,
Carl
@SparktheAction

Susan Mazza   |   31 January 2013   |   Reply

Thanks for sharing that Carl. A strong sense of humility can get in the way of claiming expert status even when it is deserved. That you were willing to make more mistakes has probably contributed greatly to your expertise. In the end I don’t think the label matters – it is the difference we make with what we know and what we can do with that knowledge that matters most.

Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

“I hope I never feel like I know everything. How boring!” — I am with you Sharon. Read a great article this morning by Wendy Appel this morning on a similar theme – The Essential Role of Curiosity http://www.wendyappel.com/the-essential-role-of-curiosity/

Thanks for sharing about The Innovators DNA – I am going to check that out.

Glad you find value here Sharon!

Jon Mertz   |   30 January 2013   |   Reply

Great points, Susan. It is important to start experimenting. Jim Collins writes about firing bullets to see what works. It is more efficient to test ideas with smaller investments and see what works. When we see what works, then fire the cannonball. Experiments and experience lead to more fruitful successes. Thanks! Jon

Susan Mazza   |   31 January 2013   |   Reply

Great metaphor John. Thanks for sharing it!