Why do we need to be experts? Apparently we need to focus on one thing and become great at it because if we spend too much time on everything then we’ll never reach this level of specialty in anything. And being an expert in your field means everything nowadays… Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers tells us that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to achieve this level of expertise that is so often sought after.
Ok, so we focus in one area, we become experts and we know our field inside out, right? Well yes we know everything, but only to the extent to which we learned about it. We have adopted a mindset of all experts in that field of how things should work, of what is possible and what is not. Essentially we have formed boundaries around our field that make it very difficult to think outside the box.
Now, think about why we often see breakthrough innovation from non-experts in a field. Those that know little about the intricacies of how things work. Why are these breakthroughs not from one of the many experts who should know the full exten of what can be done?
I think it is clear that the boundaries that come with this level of expertise make it very difficult to establish these creative, unexpected connections that often result in innovation. If it takes 10,000 hours to become and expert, how much time would you need to spend in a field to be able to innovate? 1,000 hours? 2,000?
It’s definitely something to look into because truly this is the extent to which I would want to learn about various fields, which don’t create barriers to innovation. Now I’m not saying that experts can’t innovate in their fields, but it takes a conscious effor tto break these boundaries that we’ve created.
Which would you prefer? To be an expert that would create boundaries, or just getting familiar enough with a field to be able to make connections and combinations that lead to innovation? Obviously there are benefits to being an expert as well, but are they worth it?