Sometimes, experience and expertise are a double-edged sword. Through years of working and building up knowledge, people develop skills that help them identify and solve problems that would have gone undetected or unsolved. Identifying the right problems involves the ability to disregard most of the information and focus in on the factors that are the most important. Expertise can be a strength, but being an expert doesn’t mean not making mistakes. To the contrary, expertise can cause mistakes.

Making mistakes simply means you are learning faster.  ~Weston H. Agor

An expert’s vision can naturally narrow, and most of the time, it’s an effective tendency. Tunnel vision is great for performance sports like golf, but most work related activities are more complex. When we begin to make assumptions about future events, we stop gathering information. Past success can lead experts to believe they can’t make simple mistakes.

Making Listening Routine

Since there is a natural tendency to jump to conclusions and focus on the information we think is most important, experts develop standard processes to solve the most common mistakes, like premature focus. These processes are developed from looking at the areas where most mistakes are made but can be easily prevented. Standardized assessment processes, like when you walk into a doctors office, keep experts gathering information despite their natural bias.

In the medical field, these routine processes are crucial since jumping to a conclusion too early can mean the difference between life and death. One of the most basic, universal medical assessments is called a SOAP note which includes a SAMPLE history. It’s standardized, easy to remember, and routine.

Routines can seem unnecessary, but they exist for a reason. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but in a professional environment, the stakes are high. Thousands of dollars could be on the line. A recent insurance inspection we observed at a client’s manufacturing facility showed us a classic case of what can happen when you don’t listen – Undermining Your Expertise.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.