Domain Insights Over Domain Expertise

True domain expertise is domain knowledge minus domain dogma. True domain insight is domain expertise plus creativity. - Shreyas Doshi

Working as a product manager at a construction technology company without construction experience was a source of imposter syndrome when I first started. Many of my colleagues, including my manager, worked in the industry before. They spoke the language, they understood the industry, and they had empathy for our customers. 

Yet, many of the innovators in an industry are those who are new. Those who aren’t bogged down by the dogma of domain knowledge. The Wright Brothers lacked any formal education in engineering, yet they invented the first airplane. Elon Musk had no experience in rocket science, yet he built a rocket company valued in the billions. It’s hard to question the norms when you’re so already so deep in an industry; that naïveté is what leads to innovation.

If I had a choice between hiring a Product Manager with domain expertise or one that’s innately curious, I’d always go for the latter. Domain expertise can be taught, but curiosity can’t be. Maybe the PM with domain expertise can make an impact in the short term, but in the long term, the curious PM will learn faster and develop true domain insights.

May 8, 2024

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