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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
612-978-3050

Why Are You Paying for the Same Knowledge 2 or 3 Times?

don't hire clones, hire complements

When companies or divisions need outside help with communication and training projects, they look for people who know something about their business, their industry, their market. This makes sense, because you don't want to have to explain all your jargon, or why you're in business in the first place, before you can get started on your project.

Unfortunately, when you hire contract or freelance service providers mainly for how much they know, rather than for what they can do, you often have to settle for mediocre results. You've forgotten why you went outside for help in the first place:

. . .because you needed special skills to leverage
the knowledge you already have!

You didn't go looking for help because you didn't have enough facts, enough knowledge of procedures or features and benefits. You decided that you and your team either don't have the skills, or don't have the time to apply your skills, to use what you know to achieve the desired effects.

Please, don't think for a moment that I'm suggesting that writers, designers, facilitators, and other outside help don't need to know about your business or industry. Experience and familiarity with the kinds of things your company does are truly valuable. But it does not follow that higher and higher degrees of specialization, more and more minute, detailed knowledge of your product or business or market, will automatically lead to better results.

More and More Knowledge
Does Not Add Up to Skill

In your calmer moments, you know the difference between expert knowledge and a high level of skill. Consider:

  • Some projects require both clear writing and helpful illustrations, suggesting both a writer and a graphic designer. Suppose you find two people with amazing, in-depth knowledge of your field, at exactly the same level. Since they have the same level of knowledge, does this mean they are interchangeable? Would you decide to just hire the writer, or just hire the graphic designer, and have one person handle both types of work? Or would you decide that their specialized skills are complementary, essential, and valuable beyond their specialized knowledge?
  • Are the people who know the most about a product, service, procedure, requirement, or practice always the ones who do the best job of sharing their knowledge with other people? Are they the most effective at motivating other people to apply that knowledge? Ever meet an expert who can't communicate worth beans? Ever read a software manual, a book of procedures, a list of instructions that was packed with detailed information, but didn't make much sense?

Clear communication, and even persuasion, are skills. They are tools you apply, using a body of knowledge, to produce results, in the same way that a carpenter applies tools and skills to a block of wood to create something useful and beautiful.

Let's put it this way:

If you have a great block of wood in your garage that you want to turn into a stunning bowl or end table, but you don't have the skills to do it, what's your best move: buy another block of wood, or hire a carpenter?

Whether it is communication and training, or carpentry, why pay for a lot more of what you already have, instead of paying for what you really need?

So Why Do We Buy
The Same Knowledge Again?

It mostly has to do with comfort levels. We like talking to people who are similar to us. And we get uncomfortable talking about what we don't know how to do.

That's why, when you contact potential vendors, you soon start narrowing your attention to the ones who sound just like you. You forget that you explicitly started out to find people who are different from you in some way!

The result is that you get someone who knows almost as much about your topic as you do. But your company has already paid for the knowledge you (and your colleagues) have, and paying for it again, at consulting rates, won't magically produce the skill you need to apply that knowledge with impact.

Overcome Your Comfort Level!

The most important step you can take to make your project a success is to be aware of this bias, and to deal with it explicitly. As you look for help:

  • Focus on what is missing in your team, that will be supplied from the outside, and remind yourself that completing your team's skill set is your best strategy for success.
  • Determine the minimum level of familiarity with your industry or business that will be enough to smooth your work with contract help. You may not want to hire someone who hasn't a clue about what you do, but commit to taking a close look at anyone who knows the basics.

Two helpings of knowledge and no helpings of skill will produce poor results, compared to balanced helpings of each. When you identify a need for skilled outside help, make sure that's what you go looking for!

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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