An expert versus a chauffeur (Part 2 of 3)

There’s a fundamental difference between an expert and someone who is just regurgitating what they have heard, read or studied.

In this series of posts I’m exploring how this concept relates to those who train on all aspects of ‘change’, whether it’s change management, change leadership or change methodologies.

In the first post I shared a story about Max Planck and his chauffeur to highlight the fact we have two kinds of knowledge.

One is Planck knowledge, the people who really know. They have the experience, they’ve done the work. They’ve paid their dues. These are the people that know something deeply.

And then we’ve got chauffeur knowledge.

They’ve learned the talk, they haven’t done the work. As Shane Parish from Farnham Street says:

While they’ve learned to put on a good show, they lack understanding. They can’t answer questions that don’t rely on recalling. They can’t explain things without using jargon or vague terms. They have no idea how things interact. They can’t predict consequences.

I see too many people who work in the area of change training or building change capability who are chauffeurs. They are able to tell you all about Impact Assessments, Communications Plans or overcoming resistance to change, but they have never, or not for a very long time, actually done, written or worked on this.

Their knowledge is fundamentally theoretical, not based on the practical application of this theory in the real world. They know the name of something, not about the thing itself.

The idea that there is a difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something comes from the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman. Below is a video where  Feynman explains how his father taught him the difference between the two.

You don’t want to learn about how to deliver successful change from someone that just knows the names of the process steps, or the artefacts, or the theoretical concepts of change. You don’t want to learn from someone whose knowledge is surface thin. You don’t want to learn from a chauffeur.

You want to learn from the person who knows something, not just the name of something. You want to learn from Planck.

So how do you know it’s Planck standing in front of you delivering the training, not his chaeffeur? In the last post in this series, I’ll share my top tips for knowing how to spot an expert and therefore giving yourself the best chance to learn how to deliver successful change.

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