There is a term, educated incapacity, and I really like how Herman Kahn explains it. He says that “the more expert a person is, the less likely that person is to see a solution when it is not within the framework in which (they) were taught to think.”

This idea holds true for organizations as well as individuals. One famous example was Kodak’s lack of interest in digital photography. In the 70’s, digital photography was invented on their premises. However, as experts in film photography, they could not see the value of this new approach.

Another example came to us courtesy of the pandemic. The pandemic forced organizations to confront their belief that the work of their employees could only be done on-site. Where, for decades, this belief remained unquestioned, for the organization’s survival, they had to figure out how to enable their employees to continue to work when they weren’t coming into a physical location.

The problem with educated incapacity is that we do not see the problem…or, as in these two examples, the opportunity. Shifting out of educated incapacity requires us to look at the situation or issue as though we were seeing it for the first time. Think about those moments where you’ve been struggling with something and your partner or peer walks in, looks at the situation, and offers a solution that had never crossed your mind. Voila! Problem solved!

When have you found yourself trapped in your own educated incapacity? What had you finally see it within yourself? And, how were you able to address it?

As a leader, how do you actively work to prevent educated incapacity in your organization?