How come experts are immune to innovation? Hacking the TCB Syndrome

Reading on LinkedIn and here so many posts on innovation I assume this is due to a commitment in the T&C so I decided to abide. I would ask Linkedin to be patient with me regarding my obligation to produce the “X tips for a successful Y” post, I’m still clueless.

Let’s start

Don’t let the term “expert” I used in the title suggest this post doesn’t concern you, each one of us is an expert on something whether we or others acknowledge it or not.

Now when I claim we as experts are immune to innovation, I’m not talking about us not coming up with innovative insights in our expertise areas (we aren’t! but that’s less of a hazard), no this post concerns a far worse tendency. We experts have a primitive immune system which rejects innovative insights in our expertise areas presented to us by others.

I’m no expert on things I write but this probably has to do with a basic survival instinct which helped humankind in the past maintain a steady growth while minimizing extinction risks. I’m guessing this instinct guided us to correctly identify and stay away from prehistoric innovators, leaving them alone with their insights and ideas while we experts held to our conventional wisdom from a safe distance, thus enabling the tribe to enjoy the dividends of innovation at minimum risk and free of cost at that Prepatents Era.

In modern life this instinct is manifested in all of us experts through the widely spread TCB syndrome. I’m not talking about the common “Taking Care of Business” acronym but about the “This Can’t Be” syndrome which is a dominant mental process with full administrator privileges (second only to the VLND* process) that overwhelmingly takes control of our brain whenever we experts are aware a potential innovation has presented itself.

I was fortunate enough to have (survived) 16 full years of constant arguing with individuals having enlarged TCB glands (I practiced law) so I’m happy to share with you my experience with one practical technique to outsmart the TCB process of an expert we engage.

TCB intro for dummies

First we need to understand how this primitive and effective process works (it’s a dual action loop). Once we experts are confronted with a potential innovation the dormant TCB process wakes up and immediately overrides any other running processes leaving us almost no CPU or memory for any other mental activity. This explains the enhanced choking hazard when dining with innovative people as well as the common and sincere excuse you give your boss (“I do not recall reading this email from that innovative guy who now works for our competitors. Sorry”).

Back to the dual action. The first action projects our brain with a false mental axiom directed at the potential innovation making it very clear to us that “This Can’t Be” before we had the time and mental resources to consider it. Mind you this false mental projection is so effective that (yet to be conducted) experiments by Dan Ariely on a group of VC partners showed it achieves the same level of certainty as that of knowing to correctly spell your name.

In this age many of the potential innovations presented to us experts occur while we are alone so in these cases we just delete that email or close that browser tab and the TCB shuts itself until the next innovation alert, without the need to move to the second automated action.

In the less common occurrence when an actual potential innovator is right in front of us determined to explain his reasoning, the TCB process continues to the second action (sparing us for it only minimum mental resources) which is to pronounce seemingly coherent arguments to defend the false “this can’t be” mental axiom we are certain of. This being a loop the TCB reinforces us constantly with additional certainty doses for the projected TCB axiom until the danger of us experts accepting the possibility of an innovative suggestion has passed, which usually happens once the potential innovator in front of us recognizes this is a lost battle and goes back to excel in Candy Crush.

What can be done when confronted with a TCB process in an expert?

Like any hacker you need to know by heart the TCB process and send the expert packets of information (short sentences) that interfere and disrupt this automated loop, aiming to let the expert regain manual control of himself and allowing the both of you to conduct a serious discussion on your innovation. This requires a lot of practice and determination but the gist is to enable that expert to be conscious of his predicament, so any maneuver tactics against the TCB process requires you to identify relative weaknesses and pinpoint the timing of your precision-guided packets.

Remember, when affected by a TCB seizure an expert is not actually thinking of the arguments you hear from him and usually just repeats the same conventional wisdom phrases so for example one way would be for you to repeat back to him about a dozen times the following packet:

“Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why do you say that?”

I’m sure you are thinking this would be awkward to repeat again and again the same question, and you would be right! That is exactly the kind of environment you need to create with an expert in order to jolt him out of the TCB mode.

“A little awkwardness can take you a long way with any expert, try it!” (by an unkown nonexpert)

If you know of other methods to countermeasure the TCB process, do share!

* Very Loud Noise Duck

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