Culture of Experts

Piston

Module #1

Unconventional Positions

Some work is structured, repetitive, task-oriented and process-driven.
Other work is unstructured, complex, creativity-driven, strategy-dependent and project-oriented.

Humans like to divide people into categories
For better or worse, we divide things into categories to make them easier to understand. One rudimentary division is the separation of workers into two categories; white collar and blue collar.

White collar – these are workers who do not need to use their hands to function, with the exception of smart phones, tablets, computers and specialized automated equipment. Professionals, managers and administrative workers are common examples of white collar workers.

Blue collar – these are workers who primarily use their hands to directly or indirectly manipulate objects. To do so, they use tools, machinery and their bare hands. Skilled trade workers, semi-skilled workers and unskilled laborers typically fall into the category of blue collar workers.

White collar and blue collar designations have been used a lot over the years in association with workforce changes that were driven by computer technology and automation. As computerization and automation removed many blue collar jobs, white collar jobs were added. Offshoring and outsourcing practices have an association with the blue collar designation, as many blue collar jobs were moved overseas.

For general industry and global perspectives, white collar and blue collar designations might make sense. At a company or worker level, they are a gross oversimplification, as they do not take into account the complexity of the work that is being performed or the work that needs to be done. For the purpose of this website, we will ignore white collar and blue collar designations and use four position types that revolve around necessary skills needed within any organization. The yellow boxes below represent these four position types. They are shown from the perspective of job positions rather than worker skills, for better understanding.

Position type 1

Unskilled to semi-skilled (non-expert) positions:
• Structured
• Repetitive
• Task-oriented
• Company-process-driven
Within these roles, the average person, without advanced training, can learn and become fully functional within a relatively short period of time. For the most part, these positions are repetitive. Where change is present, it will be manageable change, within the context of the roles. There is not a lot of formal governance from government agencies or educational institutions to manage the requirements for these roles, however, there are strong safety requirements from both government and labor organizations. Positions that typically fit into this group are food preparation, food service, cashier, clerk, administrative, driver, delivery, janitorial, basic machine operation and assembly line positions.

It is important to note that the people who work within these roles are among the most conscientious and hardest workers. Their contributions are extremely important to the organizations that employ them and the economy as a whole.

Position type 2

Traditional institution-guided expert-level positions:
These are historically established roles, best represented by professional-level positions and skilled trades. For these roles, there is a high-level of formal governance through government agencies, colleges, universities, trade schools, trade unions, apprenticeship programs, accreditation bodies and certification or licensing organizations. 

• Professional positions that most obviously fit into this group are CPA, engineer, doctor and lawyer positions.
• Less specific expert-level positions might be included within blanket titles: Accounting professional, technical professional, medical professional, marketing professional, HR professional, place-college-degree-here professional.
• All skilled trades positions fit into this group: Electrician, plumber, pipefitter, ironworker, machinist, maintenance mechanic, carpenter, etc…
• Many government and industry regulated sales positions fit into this group: Insurance agent, real estate agent and financial advisor positions are just a few examples. These positions might additionally fit into position type 4.

Because these positions have a rich history, they are more measurable and predictable. The skills are very transferable and achievements can usually be measured against industry standards.

Position type 3

Leadership expert positions:
These are roles that are held by supervisors, managers, directors, VPs, Presidents and CxOs.

Company leadership, hiring managers, HR professionals and corporate trainers are encouraged to use the information within this program to help hire and develop experts, aspiring experts and potential experts. Although, this program is intended for this group, it does not focus on this group.

Position type 4

Unconventional positions:
Unstructured
Complex
Creativity-driven
Strategy-dependent
Project-oriented
Expert-level positions that do not fit comfortably into position types 2 or 3 and require unconventional attention.

Unconventional positions are best filled by Unconventional Experts. Since salespeople are the most obvious of the Unconventional Experts, it might be easiest to look at that career for initial insight. See below.

Sales people, what makes them Unconventional Experts
Sales people generally work within a company processes. If you ask any salesperson, however, they will tell you that following a fixed process on its own will almost never result in a sale. Sales people develop their own process within given processes. They need to communicate with potential customers to figure out their wants and needs. They need to know their goods and/or services inside and out. They need to find value and educate their potential customers as to advantages and benefits. They need to persuade people to buy.

Salespeople have somewhat of a bad reputation. Some people believe that lying is a necessary attribute for a sales career. Expert-level salespeople are truthful, however, it needs to be notes, there is such thing as expert-level con artists.

Here are some of the attributes necessary to be a sales expert, or an Unconventional Expert in general.

• Be curious
• Move quickly to activity
• Gain relevant information
• Use the internet as a tool
• Discover possibilities
• Strategize
• Commit to large projects
• Self-train
• Self-learn
• Self-start
• Create ideas
• Realize ideas
• Test ideas
• Recognize failure as part of the work-process
• Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
• Work within unstructured environments
• Adapt to complex situations
• Invent
• Be flexible
• Work within environments that have limited guidance or processes
• Create an individual work-process where company-process does not exist
• Overcome obstacles
• Change directions
• Repeat success
• Achieve
• Master

Sales positions, why are they unconventional positions?
When a company opens a sales position, they are looking for an employee who can figure things out. Within a sales position, there is a constant need to overcome obstacles. There is one huge obstacle that shadows all others. This is the sales gap between sales goals and actual sales. Most of the small obstacles within a sales department will fall under this huge umbrella and sales departments that constantly overcome small obstacles have a better chance of hitting their sales goals.

All departments within an organization have complex obstacles. They may or may not be obvious, but they exist. Facing complex obstacles usually requires unstructured, complex, creativity-driven, strategy-dependent, project-oriented work. A disconnect can happen when complex obstacles are faced with structured, repetitive, task-oriented, company-process-driven work. Understanding the differences is key to success.

In the age of the internet, overcoming obstacles will often require expertise with some type of technology:
• Apps and software packages designed to increase efficiency.
• Automation technology designed to aid repetitive functions.
• Search engines to find relevant information.
• Industry online forums and other forms of social media to share information.
• Video conferencing and unified communications to improve communication.
• Online training resources to facilitate training.
• Website publishing tools to share information.

Possible?
On this page, we have created a group for unconventional positions and made a list of abilities that can drive such positions. At first glance, this may seem far-fetched, however, most people who study these four groups should be able to name at least one expert whom they know, personally or professionally, who has advanced their career beyond a group #1, #2 or #3 position and achieved success within a group #4 unconventional position.

Let’s define the word unstructured
When looking at a position, the word unstructured can mean a number of things. Within these workshops, the definition is fairly simple. If a position is structured, it has operational company-processes fully implemented, to guide all workflow. If it is unstructured, there are wide gaps in the operational company-process and the person who fills the position will need to use an individual work-process of their own creation to fill those gaps.

When a salesperson writes their own client-specific sales presentation, able to make the case that their product is superior than their competition, that salesperson used their individual work-process to write and administer that presentation. Individual work-process will be explained thoroughly within these workshops.

Individual work-process in motion

A software salesperson answers the phone. An angry customer is on the other end. The software that the salesperson sold the customer is not compatible with all types of files. Although, the operational company-process has salespeople redirecting customer issues to the technical support department, this salesperson addresses the matter differently. The salesperson calms the customer down and sells them an inexpensive software plug-in that allows compatibility with all files.

New technologies and unconventional positions

When a new technology makes an impactful debut, it is certain that traditional institution-guided experts will eventually follow and find mastery. Unfortunately, the establishment takes time and experts aren’t built in a day. It is not unusual to see new technologies fall into unconventional positions.

When does a conventional position become unconventional?

1) Unconventional positions explore opportunities
sometimes there are opportunities within a position that are not being explored. Perhaps a semi-skilled worker was not trained to go in a certain direction, so they chose not to. Maybe a traditional institution-guided business professional is comfortable and does not want to stray from the core guidelines of their established practice. After all, we’re not talking about work that needs to be done; only exploration beyond the requirements of the original position. Sometimes exploration falls into unconventional positions.

2) Unconventional positions overcome obstacles
Sometimes there are complex obstacles that do not come with instructions. Workers can overcome obstacles; it is expected. However, what if the obstacle is unique? What if no one within the organization has seen it before? What if the obstacle falls a thousand miles away from the original job description, but lands dead center in the company? When obstacles fall into unconventional positions, Unconventional Experts can overcome.

3) Unconventional positions fill voids
Sometimes within an organization, there is a need that cannot be filled by traditional means. The organization cannot simply create a work assignment or hire someone with experience filling the void. Miscellaneous work falls into unconventional positions. Unconventional Experts can overcome.

4) To be announced
Sometimes unconventional means TBA, as there has not yet been a new discovery. If a new discovery does not fit into a traditional position, it will fall into an unconventional position.

An opportunity from within
Promoting people from within an organization is not an unusual practice; moving them up a preconceived ladder. But think of the impact it could have on this organization if a qualified employee were to be strategically promoted to an unconventional position.

Within a Culture of Experts, companies can identify potential Unconventional Experts who work within position type 1 roles and promote them into position type 4 roles. They can also modify positions to fit the individuals who fill them. Another strategy might be to purposely hire potential Unconventional Experts and use position type 1 as a starting point for their development. In an upcoming module, we will look at mentor/protege structures, which will build on these strategies.

The ideal unconventional career
Traditional institution-guided career paths make sense. There are hundreds of years of knowledge behind our institutions. When mechanical engineers calculates Newton’s Law, they stand on the shoulders of past Unconventional Experts to improve current technology. Mechanical engineers who push beyond the limits of their institutions will find invention and be the Unconventional Experts of today.

The computer industry is filled with examples of pioneering Unconventional Experts who dropped out of college to write software. At the time, there was no guiding institution for the computer industry, as the cart cannot come before the horse. Cutting edge technology will always be one step ahead of educational systems, however, it is important to embrace traditional institution-guided paths, when they are there to follow.

Corporate Culture Assessment Questions
This program includes a corporate culture assessment. This assessment allows company leadership and HR professionals to rate their own corporate culture to see if it currently reflects a Culture of Experts. Most of the modules have these questions in blue boxes at the bottom of the page, like the one below. Module #11 puts all of these boxes together in one place, so readers have the option of taking the assessment in module #11 and reverting back to each module for review.

Corporate Culture Assessment Questions
Module #1 – Unconventional Positions

1) Name one position in your company that can be called an unconventional position, fitting into position type 4?
2) If you had to fill this position for one year, where would you take it, beyond its current status?

See all of the module assessment questions in module #11 

Culture of Experts Interview Questions
This program includes Culture of Experts Interview Questions. These interview questions can help company leadership and HR professionals hire Unconventional Experts. Most of the modules have these questions in green boxes at the bottom of the page, like the one below. Module #12 puts all of these boxes together in one place, so readers have the option of seeing all of the interview questions in module #12 and reverting back to each module for review.

Culture of Experts Interview Questions
Module #1 – Unconventional Positions

1) Give a specific example of a time when operational company-process was not there to help you perform a task and you needed to create your own individual work-process to make the task more structured?
2) What was the most complex work that you’ve done? What made it complex and what did you do to meet the challenges?
3) Give an example of a previous position that required strong creativity?
4) Give a specific example of a time when you developed a complex strategy and executed it successfully?

See all of the module interview questions in module #12

Culture of Experts is a free talent acquisition and employee development program created by Martin Haslinger. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Please proceed to module #2: Expert Characteristics

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