How ‘Experts’ are Preventing Innovation

The ‘Experts’ in the Workplace

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who is at the top of their field, then you’ve probably found yourself always agreeing with them. You have accepted that you probably shouldn’t argue because “they’re the expert”. However, research from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology finds that our attitude towards those in the social role of ‘expert’ can lead to a very harmful close-minded mentality.

The study explored how feelings of expertise can negatively influence someone’s approach to new ideas. According to this research, individuals tended to exhibit a more domineering communication style when they were considered an ‘expert’ by those around them. Then, in turn, when the individual considers themselves to be an ‘expert’, they tend to adopt a more closed-minded thinking style, subsequently preventing innovation.

This finding can be consistently seen across a range of environments, but particularly in the workplace. We are taught not to question our predecessors, or those in positions “further up the ladder”, with the inherent assumption that their knowledge trumps our own.

We need to think about the problems this breeds within an organisation. For those at the bottom; they are discouraged in questioning those at the top. Subsequently, those at the top are never challenged. Critically, this limits employees at all levels from sharing their insights and ideas, thus preventing innovation. On a social level, the lack of drive to communicate and challenge those with more perceived expertise can create a disengaged workforce, who are content to follow the status quo, never straying from mediocrity or business-as-usual.

Encouraging Openness, Communication and Innovation

Open channels of communication and open-minded thinkers are essential in nurturing innovation within businesses of all shapes and sizes. The road to genuine expertise requires constant acquisition of new knowledge. Standing idly by, instead of challenging the status-quo will not do you or the omniscient expert any favours. In fact, it will ironically prevent the them from acquiring true expertise!

Thinking of yourself as “being the expert” can be an obstacle to open-mindedness, a characteristic essential in business where we must always encourage contributions from others, no matter how much of an ‘expert’ we consider ourselves to be.

As we say at Breakthrough Global; Feedback is a gift. When an ‘expert’ let’s their ego get in the way of them improving themselves and the processes of the business, they prevent innovation. By asking for, and giving your people permission to give Feedback, you promote an open dialogue and a feeling of trust.

To find out more about Breakthrough’s approach to reigniting innovation Click Here.