Balancing what you know and what you may not – in your field of expertise

When faced with a problem – in a field you consider yourself an expert – you often tend to believe you know the answer.

Experience and knowledge (from experts, books,etc.) gives us an answer – the version of what we believe will solve the problem. There exists however the need for humility and awareness – that despite being an expert there is a lot left unexplored & unknown that may influence the answer in this situation. What are the mechanisms and tactics to force ourselves to think harder?

My thinking on the subject isn’t sharp. But I think there is a value + predictability vs. effort trade-off at play (more important a problem – or if you can’t predict your opponent’s response, less you should rely on conventional playbook answers). I can think of a couple scenarios, curious for more:

  1. Don’t apply conventional wisdom to an important & hard-to-solve problem: When you’re solving something foundational – often existing knowledge will suffice. But for hard problems, try to take conventional answers with a pinch of salt. In sports this is obvious – if you’re looking to defeat your opponent and you both know each others’ weaknesses – victory will come from outthinking not from the conventional playbook.
  2. Do not provide prescriptive answers to your team (and make sure you tell them its ok to fail) – If you believe you know the answer, still challenge that curious team mate to explore more possibilities.