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No one is more limited than the cognoscenti

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Problem

Being an expert in an area is a virtual guarantee of being locked into a particular mode of thinking. The cognoscenti are masters of improving the way things are now, but are frequently not able to envision the way things could be. Yet many solutions and almost all creativity comes from serendipity—the fortunate accident.

 

Solution

You don’t need only the experts in the room. Pull together as wide and deep an assortment of people as possible to ensure a requisite variety of ideas and questions. Don’t let the cognoscenti direct the conversation. Make sure that the naïve questions are being asked. It was only the little boy in the crowd who would say that the emperor had no clothes.

 

“The tendency of a group of experts to reinforce one another’s conviction that they are doing everything right, the tendency to let pressure to conform suppress self-criticism within the group—this is what Irving Janis identified as the great danger of ‘groupthink’ in teams of political decision makers such as Kennedy’s advisers before the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.” --Dietrich Dorner, The Logic of Failure