Working With Experts

Beyond the 'expert interview' - designing fresh ways to collaborate with our global KIN network of creators and connectors

Calling into question experts, and expert opinion, has been a contentious feature of Brexit Britain, Trump USA and elsewhere. In strategic insight, meanwhile, the role of the expert has tended to just chug along – recognised as informative and useful, but often restricted by lazy project design.

While it can sound patronising to suggest there are things that the ‘regular consumer’ cannot realistically comment on, there are indeed things that the ‘regular consumer’ cannot realistically comment on. Working with experts can point to fresher angles, obscured futures and unconsidered solutions. So why, then, is working with experts so often restricted in format to the ‘depth interview’ and to the narrowest definition of what expertise even means?

Working with our 1,000 strong global KIN network of experts, creators and connectors, developing more diverse and compelling solutions in this space is an important aspect of our work at Crowd DNA. Here are some of the ways we look to bring new energy to working with experts:

Who’s The Expert?

The term ‘expert’ is a loaded one. Academics and economists are experts. But then so are sneaker collectors and TikTok influencers. While there is some degree of acknowledgement that you can find an array of informed perspectives out there – that different objectives require different types of expert input and that reaching experts outside of category leads to new ideas – this rarely goes far enough in representing the full spectrum of experience and identity. If brands really want to be in step with societal change, to avoid stereotyping, then the expert inputs need to match this ambition. This starts with a more pluralist mindset to what expertise means. It’s then activated through an improved search and casting process. Through using different channels to pinpoint experts and a more open minded and empathetic approach to who should be listened to.

Collisions & Collaborations

So often the format is one expert, one interviewer, one hour. But bringing a range of experts together, designing for collaboration and/or for watching the sparks fly, can reveal so much more. And, frankly, be twice as much fun. We’ve had industrial designers chatting with beauticians; semi professional basketball players working alongside mental health activists. Careful structuring is of course required to avoid awkward silences and ideas getting lost in translation (sometimes literally), but with experience and craft we can get to truly new dimensions for our clients. While it’s fair to assume these types of collisions and collaborations land well in newer and more progressive businesses, we’ve also witnessed big successes among more traditional corporations – often as just one factor in a more far reaching push to shake off legacy behaviours.

Platform Innovation 

Face to face interviews and, more likely these days, Zoom conversations rule supreme in this space. But there are other ways to work with experts; different platforms to leverage. Using mobile research tools allow us to get to experts in their own worlds – reporting back on what they see around them, sometimes interviewing other experts, creating content to support their perspectives. Using pop-up communities lets us bring experts together, wherever they are globally – for debate, for critiquing each other’s views, for deep and considered cooperative exploration of new ideas. These platforms also foster greater opportunities for involving client stakeholders in expert interaction, in turn building trust in what they have to say and share.

Diversified Use Cases

Experts are generally used in the foundational stages of projects; for scene setting and shaping up hypotheses. This makes sense, but they can also be brought into play elsewhere, deeper into the trajectory of projects. We’ve worked with experts on brand positioning, campaign development, market entries, and product and experience innovation. To move them beyond the foundational phase requires establishing a different kind of relationship with your experts, transitioning them from simply stating a view to crafting something new. The value exchange needs to be set right. It puts a different kind of commitment on your experts. But often, to lean in further on a challenge, is exactly what makes them tick.

Sustained Engagement

Just as expert collaboration doesn’t need to be limited to the foundational end of projects, it also doesn’t have to be fleeting in form. We often work with clients to create more on-going approaches to accessing informed opinions and problem-solving capabilities. Assembling expert networks to work with across the year lets us track change in what they are seeing and thinking. We can evidence the commonalities that are gaining ground. It shifts us from the assumption that the expert view is fixed to, more realistically, something that is evolving, and influenced by the increasingly fast pace of cultural change. We, and our clients, can build greater confidence in our experts across the project duration. We can react to new objectives within the business and, vitally in these times, to all of the flux and friction that’s impacting on lives around the world.

The common themes here are around reducing bias, diversifying interaction and helping businesses to more effectively get clear of entrenched thinking. All of which, as we reset for 2021 and beyond, are about as essential as could be.

Our KIN network comprises more than 1,000 talented and inspirational creators and connectors, spanning cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Jakarta, Tokyo, Berlin, Barcelona, London, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires. We work with them on projects spanning brand, experience and product innovation for the likes of Pernod Ricard, Nike and IKEA. You can find out more here.