April 05, 2011
The Trouble With Experts

When somebody asks if you can do something, pause for a moment before saying "NO." Your first thought may be "that's impossible," but upon reflection you can probably figure out how to pull it off.

Indeed, there is a very good chance that what you are being asked to do is not what is really needed, anyway.

Think about it. We usually evaluate what we can contribute to a situation by imagining that there is someone else who really has the required expertise -- and then we interpret our feelings of uncertainty as proof that we are inadequate compared to this all-knowing other (who, by the way, is going through the exact same drill with someone else.)

Sound familiar?

In reality, our uncertainty (and the humility that, hopefully, accompanies it), are the essential elements of what we really bring to the table -- a curiosity about "the situation" -- and an open mindset that helps us listen to multiple points of view without being ruled by preconceived ideas and solutions.

Being curious enough to arrive at a deep understanding of what the problem really consists of is a much more valuable contribution than a knee-jerk offering of a so-called "solution."

The two main problems with high levels of expertise?

1. When all you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

2. If you need to be seen as an expert, you'll have very little opportunity to learn anything.

-- Barry Gruenberg

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 5, 2011 03:53 AM

Comments

Barry, so true, especially the last point about continuing to learn. I remember working with a martial arts master on several books. He told me that one of the unforseen consequences of attaining the recognized status as "master" was that no one wanted to teach him any longer. He was quite accomplished, but knew his own learning had to evolve. He finally found another master to work with on mutual learning.

Posted by: David Sollars [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2011 07:45 AM

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