Why and how you should seek ‘insider knowledge’

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Do you need an expert to help you or would you be better off seeking some insider knowledge?

I happily invested in a new version of Dragon Dictation software about seven months ago. Why? My doctor had told me that less typing might help my back. But here’s what made it a happy decision. The consultant I hired explained that developers had recently developed a vastly improved version of Dragon, specifically for Mac computers (my platform).

Here’s what made this happy news. I had already bought and tried Dragon — before my doctor’s recommendation — and it hadn’t worked very well. Suddenly, thanks to the consultant’s comment, I understood that Dragon was a PC program and, until recently, hadn’t had a history of working well with Macs. This explains all the problems I was having earlier, I understood. This time it can be different. 

Suddenly, what had seemed daunting and tiresome now felt easy and doable. This insider knowledge made the $100 I spent on the consultant worth every penny, even before she spent any time training me.

That’s the thing about insider knowledge: You don’t know what you don’t know, so you can’t even ask questions about it.

Recently, I was on the other side of the desk, with a client of mine. She had hired me to edit the copy for her new website. I did the work and then arranged for a debriefing call. As we chatted, I realized that she had all sorts of questions that had nothing to do with copywriting or editing but, instead, focused on what you might call website management. She was curious about shopping carts, and currency choices and “buy” buttons. I was able to give her all sorts of advice relating to my own experience over the last 10 years as a website manager and business owner.

That wasn’t what she’d hired me to do but I’m guessing it was the most useful part of her consultation with me. Wikipedia says this about the term insider knowledge: In a given situation, an insider is contrasted with an outside expert: the expert can provide an in-depth theoretical analysis that should lead to a practical opinion, while an insider has firsthand, material knowledge. Insider information may be thought of as more accurate and valuable than expert opinion.

The next time you’re hiring a consultant, remember the value of insider knowledge and take advantage of the benefits it can give you.