A major corporation developed a serious problem with its IT system. Each of the IT managers had tried repeatedly to figure out why the system was operating poorly but could not find the solution. After a critical deadline was missed, the executives made the decision to call upon an IT consultant to assess their situation. The consultant walked into the main data center where the servers were located, paused for a moment, and then placed a large “X” on one of the machines. “This is your problem,” he stated and then left as quickly as he had come.
A week later, the company received an invoice for $10,000. Outraged, the CFO sent a letter to the consultant demanding an itemized account of the invoice. A few days later came an itemized invoice that contained only two items: “Placing an X cost $1. Knowing where to place the X cost $9,999.”
While many versions of this story exist, its value still highlights the importance of having both specific and general knowledge. The IT managers of the corporation certainly had expertise in their IT system but likely lacked enough knowledge to step back and see the problem. Others in the organization, such as the executive staff, probably lacked enough specific expertise to understand the essence of the problem from the start. The consultant, however, had both the ability to understand specifics about IT troubleshooting and a wide scope of experience about IT systems in general that allowed him to efficiently diagnose the problem.
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