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Process Knowledge versus Content Knowledge. What TV’s CSI Reveals

By Kit Hon Chan, Kepner-Tregoe

Too many business leaders think that the immediate solution to any major challenge is to assemble a team of experts. They believe that with content knowledge, they can battle all business challenges and leap over any obstacles during turbulent times. Expertise is a blind spot that prevents them from recognizing what else their employees need.

Organizations should equip employees with both process and content knowledge. Like two hands or two feet, both are needed to support each other to complete many activities. People are often so engrossed in believing content knowledge is the key to answering all problems, they never realize the importance of process knowledge. Knowing content and being able to use it involve separate skills.

In TV shows like “CSI”, we watch a group of experts find and collect evidence at the crime scene, scraping off dried blood, hair, skin tissues underneath the nails, and whatnot. The investigators also put together a “theory” to convince the court on how the evidence links and explains all. If the theory claims the victim was stabbed to death; then the evidence must show that the fingerprints on the weapon match the culprit’s and the wounds on the victim’s body match the weapon. The evidence is the “Content” and to formulate a theory is the “Process.” These two are inseparably linked.

An Illustration

In the illustration below, imagine that the inputs or data are light; the process is a magnifying glass and the output is a focused point of the light. Process is used to concentrate the inputs and focus them on a common goal: solving the problem. A process bridges the individual functions and tasks of team members. Using a process, team members carry out responsibilities concurrently with little or no duplication allowing each team member to contribute. The team remains focused and inessential tasks are eliminated.


How Top Performers Work

The top performing employees are not always the most experienced, knowledgeable or academically qualified. Top performers know what inputs they possess or lack and don’t jump to conclusions hastily and without good reason. They use a set of systematic processes to gather relevant factual data and follow logical thinking steps even under pressure. They ask effective questions and, as their content knowledge grows over the years, they are better at using it effectively.

Quality Input + Quality Process = Quality Output

It is important to note that a process will not help without content knowledge. Without the required content knowledge, a world-class process is an organized path to a dead-end: the Crime Scene Investigators will fail to convince the court without enough solid evidence to support their theory!

The Key Takeaway

Expertise alone is not enough. Employees need both content and process to meet business challenges. They are equally important and work together seamlessly to resolve issues. Your thoughts?

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