Since decades there are leadership programs for leaders and sales programs for sales managers. In terms of the development of experts you find comparatively few specific offers and programs. Even more surprising if you think of the fact that the experts’ importance is constantly rising in nowadays knowledge society and that they can give a boost to an organisation’s innovation potential.
The knowledge society and its missionaries
By now we live in a knowledge society. Experts who carry an organisation’s know-how have become the key factor in terms of production. Let’s face the fact that a programmer might earn more than the president of the Europe division of the same organisation. If an IT-expert develops a valuable and at the market requested software or “killer-app” that might bring more revenue to the organisation than a top manager could ever contribute.
Therefore it’s important for an organisation to use the expert’s know-how best possible and to simultaneously keep it in the company. In order that this is successful it must not have advantages for the company only but has to be also attractive for the expert in person.
Generating and protecting innovation advance
When I worked as an HR development manager in the 90ies we already discussed the necessity of expert development programs. But until today there are only few examples of professionally accompanied expert careers.
Organisations might now seize that chance by developing something really attractive in this field. Therewith they can position themselves as an attractive employer for the most talented experts in their industrial sector and keep them in the organisation. That way they raise their chance to build and protect an innovation advance.
Talking strategically, innovation is probably the most important topic for organisations in many sectors. The times when production dominated the industry are over, at least in Europe. The wage cost-intensive industry is about to die. At the same time intelligent service and know-how production is on the rise.
Benefits for experts themselves
Experts do face special challenges in this whole context. Let’s think about all the inventors in history. Only few inventor were able to make money out of their inventions themselves. It have always been others with skills in the fields of communication, social competence and sales who made money.
This separation of roles can make sense. If you wholeheartedly concentrate on the technical challenge and not so much on the maintenance of social relations, you have for sure more time and energy available to focus on your expertise, creation and mental production. This way, passionate experts often dig much deeper into the matter than other employees. Nevertheless, also for them it’s frustrating if others use the own idea to make money or if their ideas have no chance to develop and grow inside the organisation. Many experts have the wish – in secret or consciously – to promote own ideas, projects and plans and to participate on their success.
And that’s where it gets exciting. Experts are also leaders – not in a hierarchical sense – but they lead laterally. In order to promote their own projects they need the ability to gain commitment. Also for organisations it is of interest that experts are able to win necessary resources for their ideas and projects.
Let’s take a look at Kodak and the digital photography. It was and expert inside Kodak who invented this technology but it was never followed or much less implemented because the inventor was neither capable to win commitment nor resources. Kodak went bankrupt a few years later and another company grew big and rich with just that invention.
Developing experts for the future
Until now the learning and development sector concentrated very much on leaders and managers. Now, living in a knowledge society, it’s time to support experts’ development and to make more out of their potential for success.
The concept of lateral leadership has a share in
- implementing trend-setting ideas and concepts,
- pushing intelligent knowledge and therewith in
- generating innovation advance for organisations.
Related article: The fountain of youth for L&D
After all, they learn! This is what trainer Michael Haas states in his blog entry about an online learning tool with the potential to be the fountain of youth for L&D.
Workshop – Gaining commitment as a lateral leader
The practical two-day workshop is based on real cases and challenges of the participants and helps to rise the expert’s own potential to gain commitment and resources inside the organisation in order to promote ideas, concepts and project.