專長的潛在缺點──THE POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE OF EXPERTISE

MONDAY MANNA

生於英國的加拿大籍作家麥爾坎.葛拉威爾(Malcolm Gladwell)寫了許多書,提供有關社會科學的獨特觀點。他透過《異數:超凡與平凡的界線在哪裡?》一書,讓「無論身處任何行業,要脫穎而出,就必須投入一萬個小時的努力」這個觀念廣為流行。例如,一個航空飛行員必須有一萬小時的飛航時間經驗,鋼琴家必須在琴鍵上練習一萬個小時以上。這個觀點是有道理的,設想如果你必須進行一個大手術,你會選擇執行了數千次手術的外科醫生,還是經驗有限的新手?

葛拉威爾提出了一個很好的觀點:在任何領域具有專長都是極其寶貴的。但是,豐富的練習和經驗也有缺點:你可能會太習慣於這個領域運作的特定模式,以至於不願意去思考新的做事方向,即使某些新的方法要比「我們總是這樣做」的方法更好。

抱持著「我是專家,事情就該這樣做」的態度可能會阻礙我們找尋並實行創新的方法,來解決全新或舊有的問題。簡而言之,過度自豪於所擁有的專業知識,可能會限制你未來的成功。

聖經裡多處談及謙卑的價值,這些原則也適用於商業和專業的範疇。例如,箴言18章12節教導我們說:「敗壞之先,人心驕傲;尊榮以前,必有謙卑。」我們也許很難理解,為何自信於專長會導致「敗壞」?但是我們看過無數的例子,發現企業的失敗或停滯,正是因為他們的領導者驕傲地拒絕跨出自己的專長領域,以做出必要的改變。

過度依賴專長可能會讓我們自認為「我知道所有應該知道的事情。」但在這個瞬息萬變的世界,特別是在受科技影響的領域裡,這種態度可能是毀滅性的。因為無論是運輸、醫藥、記帳、圖像設計、食品生產或是太空探索,每一個領域的長足進步,都是因為「專家」們願意放下他們的專長,去探索完成工作的新方法。

箴言11章2節告訴我們:「驕傲來,羞恥也來;謙遜人卻有智慧。」 你能想像萊特兄弟第一次嘗試飛行時,那些訕笑他們的人嗎?當時的「專家們」根據僅有的專長會宣稱:「人永遠無法飛到空中。」但是,那些飛行先鋒,以及之後跟隨他們的許多人卻證明了:人類的飛行不只可行,甚至可以把人帶到外太空。

吉姆.柯林斯(Jim Collins)在他的經典商業著作《從A到A+》中,提到績效卓越的公司領導者具備的共同品格。他描述了「第5級」(最高級)的領導者——致力於做出對公司最好果效的人。他們的共同特質之一就是謙卑,不先顯露自己的專長,卻鼓勵他人貢獻。

無論他們自己是否意識到這一點,他們正好活出了箴言19章20節的訓誡:「你要聽勸教,受訓誨,使你終久有智慧。」正如柯林斯所說的,謙虛是所有專家的重要特質。尤其是在我們這個快速變化、無可預測的時代,以為自己知道所有的答案,倚靠過去的專長,可能會帶來災難性的後果。

© 2020版權所有非傳統商業網路(前身為純全資源中心)。節錄自和Rick Boxx的純全時刻,這本刊 物主要是從基督徒的角度來探討職場上正直這個主題。如果希望知道更多關於這個事工或是想訂閱每日純全時刻,請上這個網站: www.unconventionalbusiness.org. Rick Boxx最新出版的書「提供實用五個關鍵的神的方法來建立企業。」

反省與問題討論

  1. 你有沒有聽過葛拉威爾的「一萬小時法則」? 你曾否在某件事上花一萬個小時(或接近一萬個小時)練習,以達到一定水平的專業?
  2. 你如何定義「專長」?它為什麼很重要?
  3. 你是否同意「過度依賴專長,很可能會成為風險」?以你自己的專業經驗或觀察歷史,是否有可以證實此想法的案例?
  4. 你認為該如何在專長和謙虛之間取得平衡?你覺得在各個工作領域具有專長的人,為什麼常常缺乏謙卑?

備註:想知道聖經中關於這個主題的更多信息,請參考以下經文:

箴言11章14節
11:14 無智謀,民就敗落;謀士多,人便安居。
箴言12章15節
12:15 愚妄人所行的,在自己眼中看為正直;惟智慧人肯聽人的勸教。
箴言15章22節
15:22 不先商議,所謀無效;謀士眾多,所謀乃成。
箴言16章18節
16:18 驕傲在敗壞以先;狂心在跌倒之前。
箴言21章4節
21:4 惡人發達(發達:原文是燈),眼高心傲,這乃是罪。
歌羅西書3章12節
3:12 所以,你們既是 神的選民,聖潔蒙愛的人,就要存(原文是穿;下同)憐憫、恩慈、謙虛、溫柔、忍耐的心。
彼得前書5章5節
5:5 你們年幼的,也要順服年長的。就是你們眾人也都要以謙卑束腰,彼此順服;因為 神阻擋驕傲的人,賜恩給謙卑的人。


THE POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE OF EXPERTISE

By Rick Boxx

English-born, Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell has written a number of books offering unique perspectives on the social sciences. in his book, Outliers, he made popular the concept that 10,000 hours of work in any certain field is necessary to become an elite performer in that industry. For example, airline pilots with 10,000 hours of time flying aircraft, or pianists who have devoted more than 10,000 hours to practice on the keyboards. It makes sense – if you had to undergo major surgery, would you prefer a surgeon who has performed the procedure thousands of times, or a novice with very limited experience?

Gladwell makes a good point – having expertise in any field can be extremely valuable. However, an abundance of practice and experience can also have a downside. You can become so accustomed to how your particular industry conducts business, you may find yourself unwilling to consider new and fresh approaches. Even ones that could work better than “we have always done it this way” methods.

Taking the attitude, “I am the expert, and this is the way things must be done,” can present obstacles to finding and implementing new, innovative approaches to problems both old and new. Putting it simply, pride in your industry knowledge can limit your future success.

The Bible has much to say about the value of humility, and we can easily apply its principles to the business and professional world. For instance, Proverbs 18:12 teaches, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” It may seem hard to understand how trust in one’s expertise can lead to “destruction,” but we have seen countless examples of businesses that have failed or stagnated because their leaders’ prideful refusal to step outside their areas of expertise to make necessary changes.

Overreliance on expertise can cause us to conclude, “I know everything there is to know about this.” But in an ever-changing world – particular in areas affected by technology – this attitude can be devastating. Whether it be transportation, medicine, bookkeeping, graphic design, food production or space exploration, each of these fields of endeavor has advanced dramatically as the “experts” willingly set aside their expertise to explore new ways for getting things done.

Proverbs 11:2 tells us, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Can you imagine the people who laughed when the Wright brothers were making their first crude attempts at flying? “Man will never be able to fly,” the “experts” declared, based on their expertise at the time. Yet those flight pioneers, and the many who followed them, proved human flight would even take people to outer space.

In his classic business book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins cites common characteristics held by leaders of high-performing companies. He describes “Level 5” leaders, individuals driven to do what is best for the company. One of their shared traits was great humility, deferring their expertise to encourage the contributions of others.

Whether they realized it or not, they were living out the admonition of Proverbs 19:20, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” As Collins shows, humility is an important quality for all experts. Presuming we know all the answers because of past expertise can lead to disastrous outcomes, especially in our age of rapid, unprecedented change.

© 2020, Unconventional Business Network  Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more, visit www.unconventionalbusiness.org. His latest book Unconventional Business, provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever heard of Gladwell’s “10,000-hour rule”? Can you think of anything you have done, investing that amount of time – or close to it – to achieve some level of expertise?
  2. How would you define “expertise”? Why is it important?
  3. Do you agree with the idea that overreliance on expertise can actually prove to be a liability? Can you think of an example – either from your own professional experience or from history – that shows that to be true?
  4. What does it take, in your opinion, to achieve a balance between expertise and humility? Why do you think humility is often lacking in people that have established expertise in their respective areas of endeavor?

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, 16:18, 21:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5


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