Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mind The Gap

If you know a Doctor personally, you know not to ask them for advice when you are sick. Particularly if they are a parent, sibling or romantic interest. For the most part they will tell you it will pass or to go see your Doctor. The human body is ridiculously complicated, and while they may have been generalists to start, it can be roughly equivalent to the asking someone for help with calculating the weight of concrete required to build a skyscraper since they did maths and physics at school. I am an Actuary. When I go to an annual Actuarial Conference, the majority of the papers presented only loosely touch on areas of my expertise. Sometimes I understand. Sometimes I don't have a clue. That is as an 'insider'. The TED conferences have made a real go at helping to bridge the gap and give outsiders some insight into various specialities. They use presentation experts like Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds to help experts convey their stories in a short, punchy and memorable way.

Robert Shiller has made an attempt to help people understand the benefit Finance adds to society in a book called Finance and the Good Society. In it he goes through the different role-players and explains in as close to laymans terms as possible what they do and why it has helped moved the world forward. The Financial Crisis gave people inspiration to label basically anyone who wore a suit a 'Banker'. With little understanding of what they do or how they add value - they are assumed to be evil. This extends beyond Finance, to Law, Politics and even Alternative Health. If we don't understand what someone does, we need rules of thumb to class them and pass moral judgements. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is tough with regular hyperbole and stories of tragedies in the media.

It would be great if we could have a habit of developing an elevator speech (30 seconds), a Pecha Kucha pitch (20 slides, 20 seconds each) and a TED style talk of what we do and how it adds value. Better yet, perhaps we could have a habit of spending some time 'interning' for other professions. We spend a lot of time trying to get better at what we do. We need to be careful not to blinker ourselves.

Robert Shiller - Nobel prize winning author of 'Finance and the Good Society'
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