Too bright to see opportunity

opportunity-17Sometimes opportunities inadvertently exist, and even flourish, in high-knowledge work environments because the managers are too well educated. High-knowledge environments are those where the employees generally receive years of technical education to learn their trade. These areas include engineering, technology, medicine, law, and software development. Because the managers in these areas are often very smart, they think they should be experts at managing. They feel that if opportunity existed, they should have found it already. When this happens, they can lose the ability to objectively see opportunity.

High-knowledge managers can sometimes get defensive about the notion that there might be anything more than incremental room for improvement in an area they are accountable for and know very well. This reaction can be magnified by how long they have been responsible for the area. What high-knowledge managers sometimes incorrectly assume is that seeing opportunity is an innate skill, and therefore fairly straight forward for a bright person. It’s simply not. Seeing opportunity is a particular skill in and of itself and one that requires tools and training to learn. It’s also very hard to “see” opportunities in work areas that are increasingly digital. It’s one thing to observe a backlog of parts on a production line, but digital processing can cloak similar conditions in an office.

A problem that can further compound this issue is that high-knowledge managers know that their employees are also high-knowledge and sometimes take a position that the employees therefore don’t need to be “managed.” This further obscures opportunity from the manager and can bury lost time deep within the department practices.

It takes quite a lot of humility to find opportunity and sometimes being smart simply makes it that much harder.