Culture of Experts

Module #8

Unconventional Wisdom

wis·dom – the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment.

con·ven·tion·al wis·dom – a generally accepted theory or belief.

un·con·ven·tion·al wis·dom – the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment; within a theory or belief that is not generally accepted.

In this module we will collect related topics that do not fit into other modules. This module is a work in progress.



When Thomas Edison was asked about the 1,000 failures that preceded the invention of the light bulb,
he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Failure: Part of the process

Within the interview process, it is a common practice for interviewers to ask candidates about the failures that they had experienced within their careers. Candidates are asked to cite a specific failure. The conversations that follow will try to determine who the candidate blames for the failure and what actions they took to to overcome the obstacles they encountered. If the candidate is quick to blame outside forces for the failure, it raises concern over their ability to take responsibility for their work. If the candidate did not take appropriate action to overcome the obstacles, their problem solving skills come into question.

When interviewing Unconventional Experts, this questioning strategy might be flawed. Unconventional Experts look at failure differently. They are intimate with failure, as it is a part of their individual work-process. They may not even label their most ambitious failures as failures, but steps within the process. Talking about failure from a 20,000 foot view will not inspire answers that reflect their true potential.

Within a Culture of Experts, interview questions pertaining to failure should be asked at a much more granular level, within the context of the Unconventional Expert work-process. Interview questions for Unconventional Experts are summarized in module #12.

Go for the no

Within the sales world, there is an old saying: “Go for the no.” This means to drive the sale forward until the customer says no. Once the customer declines, the process is finished and the salesperson can move on to the next customer. This advice isn’t an attempt to get a no, it is to share understanding of the sales process. The sales process is simply a process and failure is a part of that process.

Obstacles do not block the path, they are the path.

Zen proverb

Unconventional Expert attributes associated with failure

[√] See obstacles like puzzles that need to be solved.
[√] Obsess over obstacle, until they are resolved.
[√] Do not label failures as failures, when they exist within their individual work-process.
[√] Most often bring failure onto themselves as they are not afraid to test their ideas.
[√] Gladly take full responsibility for the failures that happen within their individual work-process.
[√] Would rather overcome obstacles themselves, rather than pass on to others.
[√] Create projects to overcome obstacles when they exist on a larger scale.
[√] See value in the information gleaned from failure and use failure as a platform for new and better ideas.

Unconventional Experts are problem solvers, but may not consider themselves as such.
To them, failure is simply a part of their individual work-process.


Change (coming soon):

“There are no knowns.
There are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns.
That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns.
There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Donald Rumsfeld

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Corporate Culture Assessment Questions
Module #8 – Unconventional Wisdom

14) When your company addresses failure, do you look at failure as it lives within the process and use it as a platform for new and better ideas?

See all of the module assessment questions in module #11 

Culture of Experts Interview Questions
Module #8 – Unconventional Wisdom

17) Give a specific example within your career when you tested an idea and it resulted in failure? How did you overcome failure?

See all of the module interview questions in module #12

Culture of Experts is a free talent program by Human Castle Executive Search. For expert recruitment visit us at or call (716)222-3535.

Please proceed to module #9: Behavior Within Corporate Culture

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