With a growing track record of scientific papers and academic teaching responsibilities, Mohammad Rezazade Mehrizi is not a typical scholar. On being asked what makes him feel impactful and engaged, Mohammad answers:
“Mentoring. When I see I can guide someone to develop his or her own career in a useful way, I do not need anything more.”
Resolving the mismatch between expertise and professional career demand drives all of Mohammad’s academic work. His motivation to do so originated from his experiences of being educated in Iran. He saw how society awarded status to more education, only to find that many of his highly educated peers could not find a good use for their training because their knowledge did not align with what market needs.
Resolving this mismatch is especially topical as work and organizations are undergoing digitalization. New skills are needed, job descriptions change, and whole professions could disappear as organizations are seeking to reap the benefits of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence.
Mohammad is currently doing research on radiology, where artificial intelligence is introduced to help read imaging data, for example when looking for tumors in the body. Radiologists are ahead of the curve in probing the uses of artificial intelligence, which makes this an interesting case for wider digitalization questions. Artificial intelligence could help improve radiology diagnoses, but there are also fears that it might replace human expertise or undermine professional judgment.
To help us think about expertise, Mohammad developed the expertise pyramid. The core of this model is based on balancing between the need for specializing in certain narrow domains and developing a range of complementary capabilities to be able to work in interdisciplinary activities and remain creative and flexible in our career.
The expertise pyramid helps us to examine how competences of different people develop in different shapes. Some people develop their expertise very narrowly around a set of specialized competencies, such as surgeons who need to become highly specialized: they will develop a very sharp pyramid. Others feel more comfortable with a wider and therefore less specialized pyramid that allows them to be creative and maneuverable. Some pyramids have multiple spikes, perhaps of uneven heights, such as academics who develop more expertise on either teaching or research.
By designing expert pyramids, Mohammad aims to coach professionals to rediscover their competencies as they face turning points in their careers, without casting aside useful knowledge and experience. Designing expert pyramids will be part of the new KIN Executive Education course that Mohammad is developing with Kristine Dery, called “Digital Innovation & Transformation”. Rather than developing an entirely new set of skills, professionals often need to shift their focus and develop skills that were previously more peripheral to their work. For example, when code writing is automated, analytical and design skills that programmers used to have as complementary capabilities may become central to their new career as designers of algorithms.
When asked if he is not actually becoming a career coach, Mohammad smiles and points somewhere at the base of a pyramid he just drew:
“Yes. That’s something I need to develop, here, in my pyramid: formal coaching training. That’s my plan for this year. Next to learning how to swim.”