The Dynamics of a Meeting When One Person Knows More Than Everyone Else

I was in a meeting recently where there were a couple people who knew the subject of discussion really well. They live and breathe it everyday. The rest of us were giving feedback on things based on our limited knowledge. I’ve always found this dynamic challenging. I suppose a similar kind exists in Board meetings where the CEO is privy to many more details and spends 100% of her time thinking about the thing, whereas Board members do not. But I think it’s more pronounced in more informal settings, in advisory council meetings or in 1-on-1’s with advisors. The "expert" in the room needs to be open to all suggestions and feedback even though chances are he’s heard it a million times before or the advisor isn’t close enough to the details to understand why the idea won’t work. Saying "I’ve thought about that and it won’t work…" closes down the brainstorming process. There is also a good chance that at least one line will resonate and be something he hasn’t thought of. For the giver of advice, avoiding the generic is key, albeit tough. The best way to contribute, I think, is to stay at a strategic, philosophical level ("What are really trying to accomplish here, what is our larger goal?"), instead of obsessing about tactical details.

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