The Trouble With Experts…

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Do you know the requirements for being considered an expert? There are none!

Anyone can hang out a shingle, write an article (or blog) or two, spread their opinions far and wide, and profess to be an expert. We think of an “expert” as having mastery or comprehensive knowledge of a topic, and yet given the rate of new knowledge generation today, how many people truly have comprehensive knowledge of any single topic?

There are two primary pitfalls related to experts:

  1. Too often, we base our decisions on “what the experts are saying,” which can result in a false sense of security about a path forward. As noted above, anyone can claim to be an expert. Even if you hear the same thing quoted in multiple places, that doesn’t mean it is accurate, or necessarily takes your unique circumstances into consideration. It is your job to decide what is best for your organization, not an expert’s.
  2. We allow perceptions of our own expertise to stunt our growth, and that of our organization. A wise colleague pointed out that once you think you are an expert, you are sunk. When you see yourself as an expert — or having comprehensive knowledge or “the” answer — there is a tendency to quit growing and searching for new answers, which opens the door to someone else leap-frogging past you.

That is not to say that “experts” have no role to play in decision making. They can serve as a valuable harbinger of areas to explore . . . but as a leader it is up to you to consider their predictions/recommendations/guidance within the unique lens and context of your organization. In other words, don’t ignore what “the experts” are saying, just use it as the starting point not the ending point of your consideration and decision-making. Use “industry experts” as one variable, not the sole source, of charting your path forward.

And for yourself, why not set wisdom as the goal rather than being an expert. Wise people have a lot of experience and knowledge . . . layered with innate curiosity, insight and good judgment. Wise people don’t downplay what they know, but neither do they stop asking questions and learning from a whole host of others, both those recognized as experts and those who have yet to be acknowledged as such.

One last consideration . . . have you noticed that the greatest breakthroughs rarely come from the crowd following the experts? They come from the people who look at the world, and the challenges before them, in an entirely different way. Again, that is not to say that experts don’t have their place. They do, however . . .

The trouble with experts is . . . they don’t know your organization like you do.  Yes, they may have valuable knowledge, but the decision regarding what to do with that knowledge is all yours.

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