Last week I was chatting with a good friend that is working in a super cool idea in a very challenging industry. As a great developer, my friend tends to initially look at problems from the technical standpoint. However, in this case, he has been smart enough to search for advice of different experts in the domain he is targeting. Even though the idea seems to have great potential, my friend was a bit concerned about how to proceed in case the feedback from the experts wasn’t that positive.
After listening to his argument and convinced of the technical quality and disruptive nature of the product I gave him a very simple advice: keep listening to as many experts as you can, do as much market research as you can but know that, at the end, you might be in a position on which you have to ignore the expert advice and pursue your dream. My reasoning here is very simple; experts are experts because they can advise but not necessarily because they can create.
By definition, if someone has developed a great level of expertise in a particular domain it means that they have been able to acquire a large amount of knowledge in the current stage of that domain. That level of insight in a specific domain can sometimes become the greatest obstacle when comes to envision disruptive solutions in that same space. Think about it, Steve Jobs wasn’t exactly an expert in the music industry, Dropbox’s creator Drew Houston didn’t have any background on building large scalable synchronization systems and Elon Musk hadn’t built any cars before he created Tesla.
Domain experts can certainly become disruptors in a specific space but, to do so, they need to rely on different qualities not necessarily related to their expertise. While knowledge and expertise is certainly required, disrupting a specific domain requires the ability of looking at a problem from brand new perspectives and a strong perseverance to believe that the current solutions in the space, those that are recommended by the experts, are NOT GOOD ENOUGH. In that sense, you can see why these characteristics can, most of the time, don’t go hand-in-hand with subject-matter expertise.
If you are working on a disruptive idea on a new field and are looking for validation from domain experts, my suggestion would be to use the expert-advice to improve and adapt your idea to better address the market/domain. However, I would also recommend to never let the advice of experts be the determining factor on whether you decide to pursue a disruptive idea or not. If experts can understand and feel comfortable with your disruptive idea then, by definition, it might not be that disruptive 😉