Experts who are able to traverse the technical and wider organisational world with ease are in high demand. But there is a huge deficit in market context knowledge, as many experts haven’t complemented their technical brilliance with a good working understanding of their organisation.
An expert needs this commercial context to understand the role that their expertise plays in creating value. And it’s instructive to see how much most experts can - and cannot - articulate meaningfully.
Without broader context, they’re likely to be operating in a technical bubble, disconnected from the rest of the organisation.
Ask your team member to consider these questions:
Why is market context vital to being effective in an organisation?
Why are experts often uninformed about market context? How informed should you be?
How do you get up to speed on market context?
In doing so, will you change the way your input is perceived in the wider organisation?
In our work with experts, “observer syndrome” is a very common blind spot. Most specialists struggle to articulate a credible and compelling connection between their daily work and how the organisation executes its strategy. This makes it hard to see the difference their work makes to increasing competitive advantage.
One useful tool to quickly level up a commercial understanding is the Market Context Canvas.
This is an exercise in three distinct parts:
Organisational Profile. This describes what you need to know about your organisation to operate at both a strategic and tactical level.
Competitive Landscape. This describes what you need to know about competitors, how they relate to your organisation, and therefore how you can add competitive value.
Customers. This describes what you need to know about your range of customers, internally and externally, to understand how their future requirements will impact your specialist area.
It’s instructive to ask your team to fill this chart in without sneaking a peek at your organisation’s website.
And with that knowledge - or lack of - on display, the Market Context Canvas also addresses three roles that an expert must play in order to master market context: navigator, analyst, and strategist.
How well does the expert leverage their knowledge to get things done? That includes knowledge of the organisation, how it works, its strategic direction, and its internal structure, and key movers and shakers.
The first six boxes of the Canvas are about being a student of your own organisation, grouped into the areas of Description, Purpose, Culture, Products & Services and Strategy. Do you know your organisation’s history, size, or mission? Could you describe its core values? What do you know about overall revenue, profits, or growth strategies for your business?
Use this section of the Marketing Context Canvas to assess what you know in each of these organisational areas and where there are knowledge gaps that you could work on.
Questions to explore:
What is the value of deeply understanding the organisation and how does this add value to your own work?
What specific information do you need, and how do you gather it?
How do you build networks that enable you to maintain valuable knowledge of and insights into the organisation?
Does the expert has a pragmatic, well-informed view of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to competitors’ products and services?
Knowing your competitors is a critical strength that enables experts to leverage market context and create real value. A Master Expert boasts an advanced knowledge of their organisation’s competitive environment.
Questions to explore with your expert team:
Why is understanding your organisation’s competitors important?
Given that you are competitors, how can you find out real information about them? What opportunities do you have?
Once you have this information, what would a Master Expert do with it?
Does the expert have an intimate understanding of the organisation’s customers’ met and unmet needs, and their expectations and experiences - both now and in the future?
There is a wealth of information about clients circulating in most organisations, but experts often aren’t on the circulation list. But they needs answers to questions like…
Customers. Who are your customers? Where is expert, strategic help needed to win and retain them?
Value Proposition. What is your organisation’s value proposition. Why do customers buy from your business? What do they value about your products or services? What is the value proposition for customers who choose a competitors’ products and services?
Industry Trends. Trends provide context and guidance on how the wider organisation can capitalise on favourable opportunities. What meta-trends will impact your industry and customers? Can you anticipate emerging needs, issues and opportunities rather than simply being reactive and playing catch up?
To be effective as a technical specialist, you must become a student of the organisation, its competitors, and its customers. With this broad context, you can see how your particular specialty is adding value to the organisation’s bottom line.
Download the chapter of Master Expert that explains the Market Context Canvas, as well as providing you with a clean version of the chart to use yourself.