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Some people believe they can manage anything.  They think a business is a business is a business.  In my experience this is just not true.  There are strategic issues all businesses face, and to get truly extraordinary results one must have industry expertise.

Industry expertise takes a long time to develop.  There has been a great deal of research that shows it takes about 10,000 hours of concentrated practice to develop mastery in anything.  This includes industry expertise.  You aren’t going to be an expert in an industry unless you’ve spent a great deal of concentrated effort practicing in your industry.

People who purport to be able to manage anything are just kidding themselves.  You can have a senior person who is not an industry expert, but only if they are willing to be curious and have industry experts on their team. 

Generalists are fine as long as they know how to ask good questions.  The art of being a great generalist is understanding how to ask a good question.  Industry experts should learn to ask questions, but when it comes to working in an industry, an industry expert will have an unconscious expertise in that industry that a generalist just won’t have.

A generalist must ask questions if they’re to be successful, and they must defer to industry experts when it comes time to decide what works and what doesn’t work.  Yes, there are times when thinking outside the box or going in a completely different direction will work.  There are times when the old dogs need to learn about strategic activities such as niches, cultural changes, and major strategic initiatives.

Where an industry expert is invaluable is helping the generalist install these strategic programs within a company while staying within industrial parameters.  An industry expert and a generalist who respect each other can produce results that are far better than either by themselves.

Jeff Immelt , the CEO of General Electric has found that having group leaders who have a large amount of domain expertise would produce better results than those who weren’t industry experts.  It’s the domain expertise that allows managers to make decisions easily about what actions will and won’t add value to a business.

I believe it’s important to think about domain expertise as you hire people for your team.  It just takes too long to bring people up to speed about the details of your industry.  When we hire we want to make sure we have the right person in the right seat.  We need team members who can get up to speed quickly.  Putting the wrong person in a job is always costly and makes your company less efficient.

Do you think about having the right person in the right place?  Do you think about what the skill sets and traits are of these people?  There is no reason for you to train from scratch.  Know what you’re looking for and you’re likely to get a better result.

Josh Patrick

I’ve written a special report on strategic hiring.  This report will help you with a format that I’ve used for years that has helped me hire the right person the first time.  Click on the button below and you’ll be able to download this report.


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Topics: value creation, business relationship management, unique ability, collaboration

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