3 Techniques Introverted Experts use to Capture Knowledge

You possess expertise that others need and rely on.  How do you capture and convey that knowledge while playing to your introvert strengths?  Research indicates that introverted experts prefer some specific techniques.  Applying these techniques will help you leverage and share your expertise.  In this post, we glean actionable insights from An Investigation of the Effect of Extroverted and Introverted Personalities on Knowledge Acquisition Techniques (Akhavan et al. 2016).

Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash

The Research

In a recent study, Akhavan et al. (2016) examined what techniques subject matter experts prefer for capturing knowledge and how those preferences differed among introverts and extraverts.  The researchers surveyed 152 experts in the information and communication technology industry.  The participants held expert- or management-level positions. They had earned college degrees (nearly half with graduate degrees) and tended to have substantially more than 10 years of experience.

Each expert completed a survey indicating their degree of preference for each of nine knowledge capture techniques.  We’ll discuss some specific techniques below.  The experts also completed a common personality questionnaire that indicates the participant’s degree of introversion or extraversion.  Preferences for knowledge capture techniques were then evaluated relative to this personality trait.

Not surprisingly, introverts preferred techniques that involved more contemplation, less social interaction, and less time being the center of attention.  Introverted experts preferred four techniques for capturing knowledge: critical decision method, laddering, mapping, and concept sorting.  Let’s review three of these techniques [the fourth (concept sorting) requires more than one person] and how we introverts can use them to our benefit.

Putting it into Action

Proficiency with introvert-enabling techniques for capturing knowledge will help our personal and professional performance. Sharing our knowledge will help our businesses, family, and friends to obtain the information required to solve problems.  Techniques that introverted experts prefer and how to apply each one are described below.

Critical decision method (case study of procedures followed and rationale)

This technique is useful for identifying how an expert performs a critical, non-routine task by analyzing a case study.  This technique can get quite detailed, but at its core is choosing a case study task and then:

  1. Reconstructing the task’s timeline,
  2. Adding notes about key facts, decision points, or sequences of events,
  3. Documenting responses to probing questions about actions and decisions made in response to the facts/decisions/sequences, and
  4. Considering “what if” scenarios

Steps 3 and 4 are the secret sauce.  Some examples of probing questions for Step 3 include: What was done and why?  Were standard procedures used or similar experiences considered?  What goals and priorities applied?  Were alternative courses of action evaluated?  Did you create or rely on mental models?  Did you seek guidance and how did you know to trust it?  In Step 4, ask hypothetical (“what if”) questions about differences that may exist between how an expert and a novice might perform under the same circumstances, the potential for error, and important training requirements.  With this information captured, you’re ready to articulate your expertise and the reasoning behind it.

Some examples of probing questions for Step 3 include: What was done and why?  Were standard procedures used or similar experiences considered?  What goals and priorities applied?  Were alternative courses of action evaluated?  Did you create or rely on mental models?  Did you seek guidance and how did you know to trust it?  In Step 4, ask hypothetical (“what if”) questions about differences that may exist between how an expert and a novice might perform under the same circumstances, the potential for error, and important training requirements.  With this information captured, you’re ready to articulate your expertise and the reasoning behind it.

Laddering (underlying values and preferences)

This technique helps determine the underlying rationale for why a product, course of action, or outcome is preferred.  It entails creating a hierarchical structure based on repeatedly asking “what” and “why” questions to identify attributes, consequences, and, ultimately, values that drive a specific preference.  A simple example for a razor is provided below.  Applying this technique helps you understand and organize a compelling rationale for your expert recommendation. 

Laddering Example (source)

Mapping (organizing ideas and relationships)

This is a category of techniques that graphically depict concepts, processes, arguments, knowledge, cause and effect, and other forms of inter-related information.  These techniques capture “what”, “how”, “who”, and “why” knowledge and organize it visually.  Mind mapping (my go-to favorite) and process mapping are two examples.  In mind mapping, ideas and the relationships between ideas are shown in an organized, loosely hierarchical manner.  See the example mind map outline below.  In process mapping, inputs, outputs, and the steps in between, as well as related considerations, are captured.  An example process mapping template is shown below.  Using these mapping techniques helps demonstrate the organized structure of your thinking.     

Mind Map Example (source)
Simple Process Mapping Template (Source)

All of these techniques enable introverts to go inside their heads and dig out their expert knowledge. They also let us organize our thoughts before entering group situations. Give them a try.  Capture your expertise, reflect on your thinking processes, and confidently share with others. 

References

Akhavan, Peyman, Maryam Dehghani, Amir Rajabpour, and Amir Pezeshkan. 2016. “An Investigation of the Effect of Extroverted and Introverted Personalities on Knowledge Acquisition Techniques.” VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems 46 (2): 194-206.

This post is consistent with Quietly Thriving’s mission, approach, and guiding principles.

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