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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Secret Sauce for Locating the Right Business Expert


When you need help with difficult business challenges, you probably seek insight from people within your own narrow circle. Pyramid searching is a way to speed up your investigation and get more surprising, more creative, and more imaginative results. How? By talking with experts outside your own silo.


The secret to pyramiding is to ask each expert in your domain or pyramid, "Who knows more than you do?" Then, after exhausting the obvious domain experts, ask for leads in analogous fields say Marion Poetz and Reinhard Prugl.


Do You Know Something about Scandium?


In the 1990's the Russian market for scandium had vanished. Consequently, a Russian businessman asked Tim Worstall, an economist interviewed on January 21, 2015, on NPR's Planet Money, to become a scandium distributor. However, Worstall couldn't find any articles about the commercial potential of scandium, a rare earth material previously used by the Russian military. Worstall, who is British, finally stumbled upon the U.S. Geological Survey's rare earth expert. The expert assured Worstall of scandium's commercial value. Worstall's secret method for finding out about the rare element-- interviewing a top expert in a related field.


Go Outside Your Domain To Find that Needle in the Haystack


When people first conceived of a 3D printer, product developers could have conferred with machinists about potential uses for the new type of printer. Now, the Space Shuttle has an onboard 3D printer that has produced vital replacement parts.


If a designer of space ships needed to understand how changes in pressure and temperature would affect products to be used in a new space ship, the designer could interview someone who designs or builds submarines.


Pyramiding can work in healthcare, too. Pharmacologists developing drugs for sick animals could interview pharmacologists who have developed drugs for similar human ailments.


When trying to solve business challenges, save time and get better results by asking experts in your field to recommend people with more expertise and ultimately experts in analogous fields. By applying pyramiding, you "can be remarkably effective in finding that needle in a distant haystack: identifying rare knowledge within large and poorly mapped search areas, " say Marion Poetz and Reinhard Prügl.


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