by Kelly Juhasz, President, The Knowledge Transfer Company (TKTC) Inc.
The more passionate and knowledgeable we are about our content area or area of inquiry, the more likely we are to believe that we do not require an extensive repertoire of skills and techniques to transfer our expertise. We also believe that we do not require a deeper understanding of how our audience receives and learns from our sharing of expertise. Because we are all knowledgeable in our fields, it is common for us to also perceive ourselves as excellent knowledge providers. Yet not all of us are. Many professionals in every discipline may suffer from the same condition: the expert blind spot.
What Is the Expert Blind Spot?
Identified and studied at length in the field of education, the expert blind spot refers to the gaps of what subject matter experts know and what they assume their audience knows and more importantly, what their audience understands. From a book I recommend to instructional designers and anyone working in learning and training – Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (ASCD, 2005) – we learn how good design of courses, materials and presentations can make a difference in your audience’s understanding of what you present to them.
The authors tell us that what is obvious to experts is not obvious to a novice. When we present information to others, we need to ensure that key learnings are understood and not just transmitted as facts. And in fact, that key learnings are clearly identified before we create our materials.
In the professional world, we can apply this concept to our own skills in transferring knowledge. When we make formal presentations in the role of ‘expert’, we fail to see our own shortcomings in presentation skills such as preparing PowerPoint slides, facilitating meetings and engaging our audience.
3 Shortcomings Experts Make in Formal Presentations
- Experts fail to understand how our audience learns.
- Experts fail to learn how to design effective presentations and materials.
- Experts fail to employ techniques and strategies to effectively transfer our knowledge.
You may be thinking that this is just too basic. You may be saying, “I’m an expert. I’m a professional and called upon for my opinions. People value what I say. I know how to do this.” Don’t you want to ensure that your audience understands what you are saying?
Where each of us falls short is in knowing that the information we provided was actually understood by our audiences. By audience, I‘m referring to attendees in a professional development seminar or industry event, continuing in-house education, online learning or facilitated training, group meetings, and when directing junior associates or collaborating with our work colleagues. Authors, Wiggins & McTighe, provide the following example to illustrate my point:
“From the perspective of the experts, jargon and shorthand phrases permit easy and efficient communications; to the novice they are often off-putting barriers to understanding. The challenge in teaching for understanding is to introduce vocabulary when it will most help clarify experience and ideas that arise as a result of the teacher’s design” (pg. 139).
I am pleased to announce a new project for The Knowledge Transfer Company with the Ontario Bar Association. “Addressing Our Expert Blind Spots” is a series of e-learning modules designed to assist lawyers in ensuring they present their best knowledgeable self whether they are speaking in public, chairing a meeting or teaching to a virtual audience. The series will use social media sites to elicit anecdotal feedback to support development and inform OBA’s membership to the immediate value in confronting their own expert blind spots.
4 Ways to Address Your Expert Blind Spot
How we address our own expert blind spots can occur in many ways and relates back to my other blog entries on The 5 Segments of Knowledge Transfer as well as the tips and techniques talked about in Understanding by Design and in the new e-learning series for the OBA. But for those of you wanting to start right now, here are a few things to get you started when you are preparing presentations and facilitations, designing new courseware or outreach projects:
- Know your audience
- Use the backward design method to create courseware, presentations and support materials (start with the end in mind – what do I want my audience to know and be able to do at the end of my presentation/course/meeting?)
- Pose questions, hold discussions
- Create checklists
Related to this post are the following:
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