An interesting study reported in the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2013, shows why some Experts (Influential Experts) manage to be central to Top Management decision-making and others are dismissed as “just technicians” or “just required for compliance”.
The study shows that “Influential Experts” have strengths in four key competencies (as shown in Chart 1 below):
Trailblazing. The ability to find new uses for expertise. Individuals high in this competency cast a wide net in order to identify and frame issues that top management has not adequately addressed. They understand the business and the environment and how their expertise can add value to the business.
Toolmaking. The ability to develop and deploy tools that embody and spread expertise. Individuals high in this competency are able to develop tools that help chief executives analyse and interpret important issues. These tools include reports, budgets, scenario planning, business models, technical models and other thinking frameworks.
Teamwork. The ability to work with other managers to use their expertise and convince them of the relevance of their expertise. Individuals high in this competency are able to co-opt people into collaborating on the creation and improvement of tools, seeking out their feedback and incorporating it into the design.
Translation. The ability to personally help decision-makers understand complex content. Individuals high in this competency are able to explain complex issues simply, in a language and context that chief executives understand.