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Experts for unprecedented times

Most businesses will have a network of experts – trusted associates, advisors, and industry professionals (e.g. legal, accountants, etc.) – they can access for guidance and insight as they chart their course through both good times and bad.

But what happens in the event that something truly unprecedented occurs?   


A businessman stopping dominoes falling


Such moments, whether they’re short-term incidents or ongoing crises like COVID-19, arrive out of the blue and provide a shock to the entire system. They take all businesses into uncharted territory and thus expose the limitations of individual organizations’ existing networks: everyone is in the same deep water and – in most cases – no one is particularly well placed to advise anyone else.

Of course, there are always viable sources of expertise out there, even in the most unprecedented of scenarios. The problem is that, when you consider the vast breadth of expertise out there in the world, most businesses are only able to tap into a tiny fraction of all available knowledge, and ultimately, the time-sensitive decisions they need to make will only be as good as the insight they’re able to draw upon.

The same rings true of government leaders around the world. They too are hampered by the limitations of their own networks – who they have collaborated with in the past or manual research identifies as best placed to advise, rather than who is genuinely best-placed to provide vital insight and guidance.

The UK, US, and South Korea all reported their first cases of Coronavirus at around the same time. However, while the UK and US are reporting ‘000’s of new cases per day and continuing to rise, South Korea’s are under 100 and falling. Why? South Korea found the right experts, listened to what they had to say, and created a collaboration that delivered an approved test within two weeks. Drive-thru testing based on the McDonald’s and Starbucks model, as well as fast identification and testing of all those in contact with anyone who tested positive, meant the spread of the virus was swiftly controlled without the need for more lockdown measures.


A drive-thru station in Seoul, South Korea.

A drive-thru station in Seoul, South Korea. Image source:  Sky News

The immature declaration that “people…have had enough of experts” (Michael Gove, 2016) has been exposed and the coronavirus has proven the danger of this mindset.

COVID-19 will not be the last truly unprecedented scenario we face. Hence, one of the main learnings we must take from the crisis is that we’re all much more limited by our existing knowledge networks than we realize on a day-to-day basis. There is a renewed and urgent need for all organizations to find new and more effective methods for accessing expertise and sharing knowledge.

Though, importantly, accessing expertise and knowledge that is not necessarily within the bounds of one’s own industry. Innovation and best practice taken from the drilled-to-perfection approach of F1 teams at a pit stop was analyzed, tested, and adapted for pediatric surgery handover to the intensive care team by leading medical practitioners at The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. The results were incredible, with errors in procedures reduced by 40%+ and markedly better outcomes for patients[i].

Ground-breaking knowledge transfer between F1 and medicine has been repeated more recently in the fight against the coronavirus. A collaboration between University College London engineers, UCLH clinicians, and Mercedes F1 created an innovative breathing aid in less than a week to deliver oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator.

At Techspert we believe that AI-powered expert search technology holds the key to this conundrum. It allows organizations to break out of their ‘closed loop’ systems and identify and filter all relevant global expertise on a given topic within minutes – a task that would take human researchers months to undertake.

Now is the time to instigate a change in approach. And, using leading-edge technology, we can develop knowledge-sharing systems that better serve us when the next unprecedented event inevitably emerges from the leftfield.

[i] ‘Copy, Copy, Copy: How to do smarter marketing by using other people’s ideas by Mark Earls

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