Expertise is the Enemy of Innovation – Tip #5 in Stephen Shapiro’s book Best Practices Are Stupid. Shapiro goes on to say, “The more you know about a particular topic, the more difficult it is for you to think about it in a different way. Your solutions will most likely be “been there, done that” ideas that are limited to your area of expertise. If you want breakthroughs, you need to bring together people from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences.” He goes on to site research by a professor at Harvard Business School as well as a number of real world examples to support this idea.
This enemy to innovation often rears its ugly head in law enforcement training. Trainers are often reluctant to go outside their unit, let alone outside their department of outside the profession to get ideas on how to improve training programs. It is easy to get caught up in the notion that people outside the training cadre and certainly those outside the profession have no frame of reference, don’t know about training and do not understand the job. As a result, we very often get stuck in recycling the same ideas and failing to innovate our training programs.
I would encourage you to heed Shapiro’s advice and “bring together people from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences.” Encourage those people to ask as many questions as possible about the goals and objectives of your training. They can ask you why you do things the way you do, what you have tried in the past that worked and what you have tried that failed. You also need to ask questions of them. Find out how they do things in their area of expertise and what they do to innovate and keep creating ‘better practices and next practices’ in their industry.
The tendency may be to immediately jump to defend what you are doing. This defensive posture will only inhibit grow and innovation by blocking the flow of new ideas. The purpose of this exercise is to find new and better ways of delivering training to officers. Training that could save their careers and their lives. So, set aside your ego and your initial judgements of their questions, comments and suggestions.
If you are hesitant about this idea then start small and build up:
- Invite in some people from your agency who are not associated with training and ask for their ideas.
- Next, invite trainers from other agencies.
- Expand to trainers from other areas of your municipality.
- Go outside the profession and find trainers from other companies in your area.
- The next step is to invite people who have nothing to do with training and are not in the law enforcement profession.
You will likely get good ideas from every step, but your greatest innovations may come from the last stage. If you are brave enough, go directly to the last stage.
And, read Best Practices are Stupid. The book is filled with ideas on innovation.
Excellence in Training is a philosophy which embraces adaptability, flexibility innovations and encourages you to ask questions. Check out the dates and locations for an upcoming Excellence in Training Course or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about hosting a course.
Thought Leader, Catalyst for Change, Speaker, Author and a Man With Many Questions
Winning Mind Training – Leading the fight against mediocrity through Life’s Most Powerful Question – What’s Important Now?
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