None of Us is an Expert.
Sometimes a moment in a video, a comment on social media, or a discussion in a team meeting is a catalyst for thought processes that helps me improve my work, my being, my perspective. Each week with such a moment is an exemplar week, and this week I’ve had at least two.
The first simple and yet game changing one was in a collaborative meeting between a couple of state authorities, working on greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and strategies. The people in the meeting all were of the same mind that working together is more powerful than working individually, and that accolades to any one of us is honor for everyone in the team. Most of you may already be working daily with this understanding. However, in government work that has severe budgets and where agencies are often in competition to illustrate their worth, sometimes it gets lost. I breathed a big sigh of contentment and inspiration at the culmination of that meeting. Celebration is powerful, and mutual admiration can, and does, “move mountains”.
The second comment is something that percolated in my mind for a while, and achieved added import as my brain processed and reprocessed what it meant to me. I’m working with a wonderful group of staff at my day job to understand Integrative Design Process. We have hired a consultant, John Boecker of 7group, to help us define a workshop for our design and construction staff so we can understand the potential of IDP for our work and begin a process to identify how to engage in IDP.
His comment in one of the planning meetings was that for true integrative process either everyone in the room is an expert, or nobody in the room is an expert. My brain flashed on two images. One is Dr. Cox of “Scrubs”, superior beyond measure, with information only flowing from his font of limitless knowledge to the interns of poor mental capacity surrounding him. The other is an image of a confused new chick, following anyone who seems to know where he is going, regardless of the direction.
As I processed these two opposing impressions, I realized that what John meant is more along the lines of this: we need everyone to acknowledge that no one is an expert. To qualify, he may have said it just this way, but my brain had to catch up a bit. We need to each be open to learning more and different ideas from other people in order to identify the potential for integrative improvements. Knowledge and perspective are highly underrated commodities. If we are able to embrace the validity of the experience and insights of others, without feeling a threat to our own “expert” status, we can come to results beyond anyone’s expectations.
We need everyone to grok that no one is an expert.
So how do we do this?
- Turn your every gut negation into a positive question. “That won’t work” can become, “How do we approach this to achieve success this time?” or “What can we learn from that attempt to inform this one?”
- Encourage co-creation. If you present ideas as if they are fully formed, you negate the value of other’s inputs and seemingly put your expertise above theirs.
- Ask “what do you think?” often. This will ensure the full group developes the ideas and that the group employs their full variety of expertise in any final solutions.
- Embrace the negative comments of others. In saying “Thank you for bringing that up”, or “I’m glad you mentioned that, I’ve been thinking about that also”, a couple of things happen. First, you build a stronger team full of respect and pride in moving forward to resolutions. Second, you access perspectives and welcome deeper work with higher value.
- Never dismiss the concerns or inputs. If time is short, capture the discussion for a future meeting or for imminent follow-up in some way. Take a final moment to get a one or two sentence reflection on the issue from each attendee as the meeting closes.
- Ensure the team holds an awareness of the reason for the effort you are undertaking together. Sometimes, heck, often, we get sidetracked by related issues that pull us off our mission. Occasional efforts to regroup around the end goal will softly pull the path back into focus.
- Above all, be curious and respectful. A fascination with the discussion and the people engaged in the discussion can be powerful and will support idea creation and joy.
I’m in it for the joy,
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