Experts or Generalists?

The Einstellung Effect – Knowing too much can be a problem…

In a world full of people trying to become experts, it’s hard to appreciate generalists. Expertise establishes instant credibility, and, we can easily see it and identify it – a PhD or gold medal, a plus handicap, a mechanic, programmer or pianist… the list is endless of people we can appreciate.

But knowing too much about a given topic or trade can be hazardous, enter the Einstellung Effect.

In 1942, Abraham Luchins laid out a challenge, which you can find by clicking here, that tasked participants with filling a large jug using smaller, varying sized jugs of water. I won’t break down the process or solution in hopes that you’ll give it a try but essentially the takeaway was that the deeper your knowledge on a given subject or problem, the more likely you are to revert to your old habits and ways of doing things to solve problems that arise. For those familiar with the Dunning-Kruger Effect, if we were staking boundaries, we’d have the Einstellung Effect on one end and the Dunning-Kreuger Effect on the other.

One of my favourite quotes by Charles H. Brower states “People are more comfortable with old problems than new solutions.” There’s some thick irony within this quote today as we live in a world of striking innovation and technology. We have the ability to be more self-aware than we’ve ever been. It was so much easier to be blissfully unaware in the past. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. There is so much potential to increase our self-awareness, personally and professionally, using what seems like an infinite amount of ways to collect data. This can get us to the ideal state of knowing what we don’t know. The challenge lies in avoiding assumption, regardless of your level of expertise, experience or knowledge on the subject. Start from scratch. Heed the generalist, tackling a problem with an open mind, because they are malleable, adaptable. Use appropriate tools to acquire rich data, ones that generations before us wish they had when faced with old problems, to get the info you need on a road to making better decisions. Eventually, specialists will have a chance to enact their expertise, but this has to happen after exploring all of the options and avoiding the vicious “that’s the way we’ve always done it” trap.

#Generalists #Measure #Train #Support