1/One of the more debated questions in innovation is the value of expertise.

Do better solutions come from subject matter experts, or from outside perspectives, not burdened by conventional thinking?

Well the answer is both, but for different reasons.
2/To truly drive progress in innovation, you need two things: to work on the right problem, and to develop a solution.

Insiders are best for identifying the right problems.

Outsiders are great at identifying solutions.

But one without the other gets you nowhere.
3/When you are deep in a space, it starts to get tedious to shoot down ideas that sound slick but don’t actually drive a performance improvement. Meanwhile, some of the more important problems get completely ignored by outsiders because they are non-obvious.
4/I’ll give an example from my domain: in geothermal, nearly 10% of development costs are from something called lost circulation during drilling. Ever heard of it? My guess is no, unless you are a seasoned drilling engineer.
5/Solutions for lost circulation need to be developed in materials science fluid flow, areas where tons of expertise has been developed from other disciplines. But none of that expertise is working on new loss circulation methods in geothermal because it’s a non-obvious problem.
6/I’ve never once heard of a startup focused on lost circulation, even though it’s near the top of the list of geothermal performance opportunities. Meanwhile there is no shortage of startups focused on other challenges that don’t actually have an impact.
7/The lesson is to keep the two parts of innovation working together: identify problems like an industry vet, but brainstorm solutions like a newbie. Find your own version of geothermal lost circulation to work on. It’ll be less crowded and have more impact. END
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