Attributes to Look for When you Must Select an “Expert”

If you enjoyed our last post where we explored the effectiveness of financial titans, an example of how medical professionals can be fallible, and how incentives lead realtors to to work against your best interest (Link), but find yourself still in need an “Expert” seek out these traits adapted from The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.


Attributes to Look For:

  • Multidisciplinary: Demonstrates the ability to incorporate ideas from other fields or disciplines
  • Adaptable: Finds new approaches or willing to pursue multiple approaches at the same time
  • Self-Critical: Willingness to take ownership for mistakes or failed predictions
  • Tolerant of Complexity: Understanding that the universe is complex and recognizes that some things are unpredictable (e.g. Black Swans)
  • Cautious: Express projected outcomes in probabilistic terms
  • Empirical:Rely more on observations and data than theory

Attributes to be Cautious Of:

  • Specialized: Career dedicated to working on one or two great problems. Skeptical of the opinion of “outsiders”
  • Stalwart: Singular approach to problem solving. New data is used to refine the original model
  • Stubborn: Blames others or “bad luck” for mistakes and errors
  • Order-seeking: Expects things to abide by relatively simple governing relationships
  • Confident: Speak in terms of certainty
  • Ideological: Expects solutions to be a manifestation of some grander theory


The two lists outlined above signify that the “best” experts will be reluctant to make bold statements regarding  projected outcomes. This reluctance may be perceived as a “weakness”, as it violates laws of persuasion. Always be on your guard for Gurus preaching certainty as they are of course trying to sell you something!

Persuasion Tip #9: Display confidence [either real or faked] to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself, or at least appear as if you do, in order to get anyone else to believe

Win Bigly by Scott Adams

Forget SMART. Be Unreasonable!

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”

-George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

SMART is an acronym for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, TIME-BOUND which is “preached” as gospel in business school textbooks. Though Specific, Measurable, Relevant and Time-bound are essential, “Attainable” leaves the door open for excuses and under performance. SMART leads organizations and individuals to set small goals (e.g. 10% improvement in insert random KPI) and neglects to do things that can lead to 50% or 100% or more improvement. The key to rapid and meaningful improvement is being UNREASONABLE.


Being UNREASONABLE forces you and your team to think differently and discontinue the status quo. One of my favorite examples of  this is the setup reduction results obtained by Wiremold, the company who is the subject of James Womack’s book Lean Thinking. In each of the examples below setup time was previously measured in hours and ended up being measured in minutes with the smallest reduction being 88%! Setting large goals when it comes to operational excellence enables your organization to truly change the process vs. “just working harder”.

Setup Reduction

Source: Art Byrne, The Lean Turnaround

As Tim Ferriss puts it in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, setting unrealistic goals provides you with an “adrenaline infusion” which will motivate you to be successful. Ferriss also asserts that the level of competition is fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming. So take the road less traveled and set unreasonable goals with these tips:

  1. Select goals that are relevant to you or strategically important
  2. Aim big! 50 to 100% improvement minimum
  3. Break up goals into defined steps with the maximum timeline of 6 months
  4. Do things that get you out of your comfort zone


If the set-up time reduction didn’t do it for you, check out other examples below:

  • Losing 20lbs. of fat in one month (Link)
  • Retire at the age of 30 (Link)


If you enjoyed this post and are curious to learn more about the books referenced check out Tim Ferriss’, The 4-Hour Workweek and Art Bryne’s, The Lean Turnaround using the links below.


Driving Out Fear: The Hidden Risk

W. Edward Deming was an American statistician, management consultant, and professor credited  with influencing the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean manufacturing (subjects which will be explored on this blog at some point). Along with the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle and advocacy for statistical quality control (e.g. control charts), Deming developed his 14 key management principles. In this post we will explore #8, “Drive out Fear”.


“Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company”

– W.Edward Deming

I found myself pondering this concept most recently while reading “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by B.G. Malkiel.  A book first published ~40 years ago which explores the efficient market hypothesis, wisdom or lack thereof of investment gurus, and the madness of crowds in great detail.  In his book, Malkiel discussed the work of Kahnemann & Tversky (critics of the efficient market hypothesis) whose behavioral experiments discovered that people are extremely loss averse and in situations where loss was assured, individuals exhibit risk-seeking behavior. One such example is provided below:

Consider the below options for yourself:

Option 1: Guaranteed loss of $750

Option 2: 75% chance of a $1000 loss & 25% change of no loss

When faced with the two options provided above, Kahnemann & Tversky found that  90% of subjects selected option #2, despite the fact that the expected value of both decisions is the same. How could this concept apply to organizations?

In organizations where individuals are held “accountable”, often a euphemism for a perform or “you’re fired” management philosophy, individuals are put in situations where loss may be assured. Based on the work of Kahnemann & Tversky it is the tendency of the vast majority of people to exhibit risk seeking behavior. In the world of business this may result in shipment of nonconforming product, hiding injuries, violation of environmental laws & policies, etc.

In my own experience I’ve witnessed individuals “manipulating” on-time delivery numbers, supervisors aborting lengthy processes early to meet delivery commitments,  and overriding safety features to reduce cycle times. One organization had a philosophy uttered jokingly by employees on the production floor, “Ship it! We’ll worry about it when it comes back”. As a young engineer I found myself chastising the individuals while seemingly oblivious to the fact that the behavior was human nature and a response to the management system.

For years, quality professionals have been focused on developing detailed “processes”  to the point of annoying everyone within the organization. The switch of ISO 9001(Quality Management System used across many countries & industries as the minimum requirements of a quality management system) from process thinking to risk based thinking has quality professionals around the world preparing SIPOC’s (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer) diagrams and performing FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis) activities throughout their organizations in an attempt to map out organizational risk. I find myself wondering how we eliminate the greatest risk, FEAR in our organizations?


“Well, 99% of things done in the world good or bad is to pay a mortgage”

-Nick Naylor, Thank You for Smoking


W. Edward Deming:

14 Points for Total Quality Management:

“A Random Walk Down Wall Street”:

ISO 9000:

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