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The Expertise Trap

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Excerpt from Harvard Business Review

When we begin to identify as experts, our outlook can narrow, both in daily work and in times of crisis. We become reluctant to admit mistakes and failings, hindering our development.

We distance ourselves from those “beneath” us, making it harder to earn their affection and trust. And as the dynamics of our businesses change, we risk being bypassed.

7 Warning Signs That You’ve Fallen into the Expertise Trap

  • You’re unfamiliar with new technologies or approaches in your industry.

  • When someone asks why you or the company does things in a certain way, you think, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it.”

  • When making decisions, you focus on how much risk your options pose rather than on the opportunities they represent.

  • You discover that colleagues are working together in ways you haven’t such as texts rather than email, and mobile rather than desktop, even snapchat or facebook groups.

  • You keep proposing the same old strategies and tactics to address new challenges.

  • You try to make old solutions ever more precise rather than pioneering entirely new ones.

  • High staff turnover particularly with Millennials.

The solution is clear: Re-dedicate yourself to learning and growth. Turn back the clock and rediscover just a bit of what the Buddhists call beginner’s mind.


Exceptional leaders know that learning isn’t ever “finished”- it must be a lifelong pursuit, as humbling as it is joyful. Their greatest fear isn’t that their expertise and authority will be challenged but, rather, that they’ll become complacent.

Prevalent and dangerous as the expertise trap is, we can escape it, or avoid it entirely by rebalancing our professional identities, checking our assumptions, listening to teammates, engaging different voices, finding new role models, challenging ourselves with new pursuits, and learning from our mistakes. We can cultivate a beginner’s mind to go along with our expert perspective, pushing ourselves to new levels of creativity and performance.

Business planning and business coaching at Grace Team Accounting | Tauranga Accountants allows you to take advantage of our business development offerings. We work with a diverse range of clients and offer robust programmes for growth and development

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