Remembering to Listen #bpm #startups

  • October 9, 2011
  • Scott

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– from The Princess Bride

Normally being an “expert” – one who has acquired expertise – is a good thing.  Generally I recommend that people strive to develop deep expertise in a few areas of interest.  Become an expert.

But there are times when it works against you – Jason Cohen has some great anecdotes in a blog post about when being an “expert” can be harmful.  These cautionary tales show how people who have expertise might not take full advantage of it, by assuming their expertise leads to the answer – instead of assuming their expertise would give them avenues for learning…

As BPM practitioners we have to remain open to the idea that we don’t know what we think we know… I think we’ve all both participated in this, and seen it happen to others:

The worst is when you’re an “expert” because then you’re even less likely to challenge your assumptions.

As an “expert” you’ve devised your own laws about what makes your market different from other markets, and what makes your company unique. Even with prior experience, this knowledge based largely on feeling, not fact.

In BPM in particular, we have to set aside what our “expert” voice is telling us inside our head.  We have to listen to what we’re hearing from our customers.  Similarly, we need to help customers set aside their assumptions about what software will do for them, about what their real processes are, just to name two topics. We’re on a journey together with our customers and that requires learning and listening.

Sometimes being an expert conflicts with listening – but only if you think being an expert means you have all the answers.

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