In a previous blog entry, I shared the concept of Robert Quinn’s Tyranny of Competence. It goes like this:

An individual contributor is a person whose technical competence is judged in terms of singular rather than interdependent action. The more unique the individual output, the more powerful the person becomes. The overapplication of the technical paradigm by an individual can lead to a negative state called the tyranny of competence.

My focus in my previous entry was to help leaders consider the problems with allowing any one person become a “tyrant” due to being so highly technical that they are the ONLY person on the team with the critical job skills. As a person whose motto is “Share More!,” I can’t keep any piece of information useful to the team to myself…I have to share it, whether in cross-training or a published piece (e.g. blog, article for magazine, etc).

Yet, what if we took that idea and applied it to job seekers. Isn’t it safe to say that a person on your team who is highly technical and competent in his position enjoys a certain level of job security? And, isn’t holding on to that job the most important thing in a tough economy? It seems counter-intuitive to practice “sharing” the one or two things that make you highly valued.

In educational technology, though, it’s critical to share your ideas because the shelf life of the skills that make you technically competent is short-lived. We don’t want to find ourselves sitting pretty on Web 1.0 design now that Web 2.0 design is here…what we need to do is keep pushing ourselves, sharing as we go so that we elevate the level of conversation in our field and continue learning.

The problem with this thinking, though, is that I’m a human being. I can’t ALWAYS be learning, right? I mean, at some point, I hit the wall and it becomes a case of diminishing returns. I’m not always going to be young (hey, it’s my birthday today (10/22) and I’m 41) and able to stay up late learning new things and moving ahead. Eventually, sitting by the side of the road and watching the speedsters go by will be fun. While I’m not at that point, I have to try and reconcile this perspective with constant growth.

Reflection on what is being learned is becoming more important. Even as I slow down to “smell the flowers” more, I also find that I have a tremendous amount to share. Though I may do less, what I do can have a deeper, richer flavor because I bring a wealth of experience. The equivalent in writing is rich details interwoven throughout that adds multiple levels of meaning to a piece of writing.

Maybe, being tyranically competent is a worthwhile goal in a tough economy. . .I’m grateful I have the luxury of choosing to share what I learn with as wide an audience as possible without having to worry about becoming irrelevant as a result of that generosity.

What do you think?


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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