Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stepping Stones to Achieve Towering Competence

It has been said that McKinsey consultants strive for towering competence. That is, to be so competent in a field that one towers above all others. I have often wondered how one achieves this goal. I have created the list below to help to identify some practical steps to start down this path.

  • Bring up (insert your discipline here) with your colleagues, continuously
  • Ask an expert how he or she became a recognized leader

Literature Search (existing knowledge)

  • Read periodicals
  • Study case studies
  • Read constantly

Research (new knowledge)

  • Conduct surveys to learn more about (insert your discipline here)
  • Review the findings of others’ surveys
  • Visit leaders of (insert your discipline here) .
  • Conduct information interviews.


  • Attend seminars where (insert your discipline here) is discussed
  • Present your ideas at seminars

Project Work

  • Watch for opportunities where you can learn more about (insert your discipline here)
  • Build (insert your discipline here) into the project
  • Put a (insert your discipline here) angle on the project
  • Build a research portion of (insert your discipline here) into the project


  • Create a blog
  • Post on others’ blogs (see
  • Publish articles in periodicals
  • Publish your own book

No one can pursue all of these activities at once. Choose three or four that you can tackle during the next three months. Maybe you cannot focus on writing a book this year. Many training and travel budgets have been slashed so you are forced to defer the seminar avenue. Even in a global recession, you should be able to talk with colleagues, read a lot, and create a blog. When working towards towering competence, remember that it could take a few years, or a career, to achieve.

What have I missed? Are there other activities that can help a person along the way to becoming an expert in a field?

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