Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't Let Expertise Stand In The Way Of Creativity

A funny video has been making the social media rounds called "The Expert" by Lauris Beinerts.  While I find the video to be hilarious, I don't sympathize entirely with the character known as the expert, but also with the folks trying to hire him.  They have specific needs and he fails them in a multiple ways because he lets his expertise stand in the way of creativity.

A creative approach can make the impossible become likely.
Mistake #1:  He says "No" to one of their specifications.  Rather than telling them it can't be done, he should take the opportunity to ask more questions, deep dive into their requirements and find out exactly what they would like to achieve.  Maybe he is missing some other key requirements by not asking for a bigger picture of what they need.

Mistake #2:  He fails to educate the customer.  When the customer asks for something he cannot deliver, he fails to educate them about the limitations, although he does make some effort at this.  He should take the time to align their expectations with the limitations of whatever system they may be using.

Mistake #3: He doesn't offer to do more research.  If he took the time to look into their requests and came back to them with a follow up proposal, he might find some creative and interesting approaches to their problems.  Just for fun, lets look at some of their requirements:
  • Red lines from green ink? Perhaps he should try color changing markers or a system of filters and lights.  There are also thermochromatic pigments and color-shifting paints that could offer fun solutions.
  • Red lines from transparent ink?  Perhaps he should put the lines over a red background or try special magic markers.  Will the customer accept red lines cut from construction paper and colored with transparent ink?  
  • Seven perpendicular lines?  Perhaps he should investigate working in 7-dimensional space.
  • Make one of the lines a kitten?  A 1-dimensional kitten might meet their requirement, but the expert did not ask enough questions to find out.  Maybe they would rather have a combination of lines and curves?
The need is two-fold:  experts need to hone their communication skills as well as their creativity.  Experts need to be better communicators and have the patience not only to discover what the end-goal of a project really is but also to help everyone understand the project's limitations.  In addition, creativity will make any expert even better.  Take the time to explore challenges that would otherwise seem like impossibilities rather than just saying "No".  As with improvisational acting, experts in any field should strive to build on the ideas of others rather than negating them.

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