The Context Matter Expert

Here is an excerpt of a piece I am working on about partnering  with leaders inside the client company

Ernest Sirolli tells a story in his TED talk - a story of aid workers in africa insisting that a certain valley buy the river is a wonderful place to plant.They crop grow beautifully and the aid workers congratulate themselves on the job well done as they feel pride in teaching the locals something they didn’t know about their own land.

Then one night the hippos came out of the river and ate the entire crop.

The hippos were always there.The locals knew that they would eat crops, but the aid workers never asked them.They just assumed that the locals were not as savvy as they were.

This story is a nice parable for the education designer.Sometimes… No.Always we need a context matter expert.The SME is highly valued in our field, but the context is as important, if not more, than the content.

A colleague of mine recently said "Customization in Executive Education is really contextualization."His point was that his company doesn't radically change the content they teach between clients.Leadership is Leadership; Marketing is Marketing.The principles stay the same across industries, but the context of the participants changes how they might apply these principles and ultimatelyaffect their business.Context changes how we as educators present and make relevant the knowledge that we need to get across to participants.

So, where do we find context matter experts?And when found, what do we do with them?