Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a pilot workshop I am developing on how to find the subject matter experts in your organization. I learned a lot from a really great group of trainers and managers and the conversation kept circling back to “how do we work with them?”
I gave everyone a copy of my book which is really a starting point to answer that question. As I talk to people online and in person about it, there is a wealth of issues that arise. That is exactly why we have this blog, so we can continue the conversation on a regular basis and learn from each other.
One of the attendees yesterday is a consultant who said he has conducted hundreds of subject matter expert interviews. His usual approach is to start collecting information by asking to speak with someone who has been working in the relevant field for five years. When his client says, “No, we want you to talk to so-and-so who has been here for 30 years” he tells them that so-and-so will be his second interview.
Why? Quite simply, this seasoned consultant long ago intuited that it was the person who is still learning a subject who knows how to explain it. He saves his interview with the veteran SME after he has mastered a basic comprehension of the subject.
This consultant has learned that – in the language of Working with SMEs – that it is the Conscious Competent who is the best interview subject for a trainer or instructional designer who needs to learn a subject from the ground up.
It is always great when I get confirmation that the basic concept of the book is sound.
Also, I am learning every day that people really need help working with SMEs and so several workshops and another book are in development to assist companies in this sometimes frustrating task.
As always, I look forward to your comments below.