The definition of expert is; “A person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.” Of course there are other definitions to this, but for the purpose here, we will generalize. I’ve been prompted to post this in response to finding several so called “experts” who have claimed to know something but have merely regurgitated old information. I’m not sure if this is in part from laziness, or fear of stepping out the box, and actually stating an original opinion. I’ve also found others who have used this title as an ego boost and solicitation of business almost to a level of unethical behavior. We don’t need to get into the psychology here of borderline personalities, just the fact there are many.
I know, I know. It’s easy to criticize, and my purpose here is not to do so, but to review both sides of this expert opinion coin. I’m not claiming of course, to be an expert on the subject, so take it or leave it. However, I’m not afraid to take an in depth look at something, and try to share valuable information with others either. Enjoy.
Being an expert or authority on something doesn’t necessarily have to do with the length of time you’ve been doing something, though time can’t typically be replaced. I feel there are certain areas where this is more applicable. For example, in surgery, or chemistry, this may certainly be the case. More time creates a higher aptitude to predict certain outcomes. To play devil’s advocate, I could say that time is relative. A doctor in practice for 20 years, may not be as up to date on technology, or open to new ideas as someone new and highly motivated in the field. What makes this true? Your viewpoint, to start with.
There are other industries where, clearly, time did not make the expert. Technology, websites, internet growth, fashion, an other common inventions by people who have surged to the top of industries, not from the length of time they had been in the industry, but a combination of things. A combination of what others are calling the “secret sauce” of expertise. Doing, learning, and apprenticing (being mentored) This comment comes from Lorelle VanFossen of BlogHerald . 1) “I think some amount of time spent apprenticing and learning, as well as doing, should be part of the qualification (to become an expert).” Well put, since it takes varying efforts to try to categorize who can and can’t be called an expert.
Experts are meant to provide something others can’t. To manage and create dream teams, design and follow through on a project in ways most can’t, share and mentor you with experience gained through time or hands on experience, and to create that perfect mix of business and personality that creates a win- win benefit. That’s a lot to manage. So just how do we know who an expert is, and when the experts, need an expert? Here are a few good rules;
- Check background and credentials
- Get testimonials and former clients, students, or colleagues to weigh in
- In academia and business you can check claims and references; licensing, associations, boards, and BBB
- Check body language and speech
- See if they are referenced or cited in other ‘expert’ opinions, papers, websites, links, and books etc.
- Be aware of quick claims, fast talk, over blown promises and unprofessional behavior
- Big, bold type and unprofessional web sites and business cards can signal a pseudo expert
While it’s clear that people seek out experts to lessen gaps in learning and for advice, it’s recommended you do some homework of your own in this area. Depending on what industry you are in, you will have a different view of what an expert is, and what justifies the title of expert for an individual. Many people look to consultants as experts in industries across the board. These change agents are usually at the top of their field and have gained experience over the years. Others think the claim of consultants are an unnecessary evil. Either way, people want to be around leaders, and innovators. People listen to what experts say, and many take it at face value, even doing things they wouldn’t normally do at the bidding of an expert. I’m sure you can think of both good and bad examples to insert here.
It’s nice to think of top trainers or leaders, as the “all knowing” expert, but even top experts need to seek good advice. At least those with an authentic desire to continue to improve their expertise do. It’s alluring and flattering to be promoted as an expert, and hopefully when in that position, you’ve earned it. Many are expected to predict the future, and part seas. Of course that will continue to be out of our reach, even for so called experts.
What I see as important, is the need for peer review and supervision at the expert level. Keeping a thorough assessment on what creates a true expert with some oversite can encourage new ideas, and a reciprocal exchange of information (hence more expertise) all of which can be used for increased understanding in the field.
What we try to do with one of our companies, Lotus Effects, and those we affiliate ourselves with, is to expand the level of expertise by including those who fill gaps in our less focused areas, and push forward for what we call ‘kaizen’ or continuous improvement. We create assessments, programs, and models that are part of aspects of our work that can be evaluated by peers, clients, and other experts. It’s important to seek collaboration. Apparently I’m not the only one to feel this way. These comments came from Ted Nguyen on Blog Herald, “I didn’t create this stuff, I just found them and put them together for you. I’m a good synthesizer of information.” In other words, I’m good at taking bits of information and making them coherent or “make sense.” in referencing his ongoing need to learn and improve his specialist status. He goes on to say. ” So what I did was to collaborate with others who were more experienced than me but who were in related areas like “counseling.” While doing this, I read as much as I could online and through books & was fortunate enough to attend a conference (which really helped me).
Typically there has been a hierarchical system in which experts are viewed, and the more training, credentials, awards and experience in the field the more you are viewed as an expert. That is true, and if deserved, I can stand behind that. But with this there should be a collaboration of professionals for experts to turn to, and the ones I have known to be true authorities subscribe to this mindset also.
All of us at some time need a little advice, and a fresh point of view. So in closing, my point is that experts who can acknowledge that an open peer assessment, and supervision is a great template for valuing expert authority, rather than relying solely on the allure of the ego, will be the experts you want to go to. This helps the expert to keep from viewing themselves as “all knowing”. Experts, too, should create a balance with their level of experience and the weight of that title. The key is to focus on the importance of information and the end user, rather than internalizing the title of expert. Then again, I guess I’ve always been one those who challenges authority, and believes in organic growth for personal and professional development.
Join us for more opinion generating here.