I just finished reading Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways. Author William Taylor had spent much of the past two decades immersed in high-tech companies as cofounder of Fast Company magazine, and in this book he wanted to see if he could find examples of "extraordinary" in other industries.
Taylor provides examples of a parking garage, bank, fast-food diner, cleaning company, WD40, Quicken Loans, a homelessness campaign, insurance company, electric parts manufacturer, city neighborhood, mining company and others that were able to set themselves apart on many measures.
The successful organizations all value learning, care more than everyone else, and involve everyone in the organization as well as many others in the creation and delivery of results.
This intentional cultivation of involving others helps to shield against "the paradox of expertise*" which occurs when people who have the most experience in an area are blinded to new ways of imagining what is possible. Those who have been successful for long periods or those who have deep knowledge about an industry often find it difficult to disregard what they know and reimagine something entirely different.
"How do you make sure that what you know doesn't limit what you can imagine?" writes Taylor.
How can you guard against the paradox of expertise? Do you actively engage others who are not directly connected to your work or who come from entirely different fields? Is there a mechanism in your organization for all people in your organization to have an opportunity to contribute ideas or suggestions? Can you actively solicit feedback from users, not just those who provide the service?
Taylor's book gives evidence that extraordinary can happen anywhere. It's up to you to break the barriers of reality to imagine what extraordinary could look like in your organization.
-- beth triplett
* "paradox of expertise" was coined by Cynthia Barton Rabe