“A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” This bible verse (Matthew 13:57, King James version) reminds us that many truths about human nature are as old as time itself.
In management speak, this verse is recast as “The farther the distance traveled, the greater the expert.”
Both phrases deal with the human tendency to project excessive expertise on those we do not know simply because we have not yet had time to know them as fully human, with a normal human’s range of strength and weakness. Another way to put it is, “If the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it is because it has more bulls**t on it!”
The flip side of the tendency to overvalue the “expert from afar” is a tendency to discount the capabilities of those close to us because we know their faults all too well: “No man is a hero to his butler.”
We so desperately seek certainty and security that often we are over-willing to embrace those who promise it to us, insufficiently skeptical of the reality or probability of those assurances.
In business, I often see it as the “consultant’s disease,” an over-reliance on outside input simply because it comes from afar by those who frequently spend an inordinate amount of time burnishing their image versus making sure that their clients receive bottom-line value.
My father served 18 years on our local city commission. Growing up I remember his frustration at the number of costly consultants hired and the numerous reports they generated, many of which were either uselessly vague, contradictory, or simple common sense poorly disguised via technical jargon, or merely using feedback from interviews with existing staff and regurgitating it. Even if a report was even halfway decent, often it sat on a shelf because its recommendations were considered too bold, too risky, or too difficult to implement. If the solution were obvious/easy, even the most dysfunctional management team rarely needs a consultant.