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  • Raghav Sand

Expert View: Endeavour to Decipher®

If management gurus are to be believed, generalists are preferred over experts for leadership roles in an organization. The same rule of thumb applies within our families and communities. Who is the most sort after person when a professional or social task is being undertaken? Chances are, a generalist is vested with the responsibility to execute the mission. In all this praise for generalists, let us not get ahead of ourselves. Experts and generalists will continue to coexist, just like they have done in the past. In a previous article, I have talked about the utility of generalists. Now, it is my ‘Endeavour to Decipher’® the relevance of experts.

An expert is someone who has skill and knowledge in a given domain. In the field of psychology, there is a never-ending debate about ‘nature vs. nurture’ aspect of an expert. Those who take the side of nature, believe that experts are born, while the rest believe that with education and experience anyone can become an expert in their chosen field of work or vocation. Having knowledge about a subject is just one aspect of being an expert. A person is acknowledged and admired as an expert when they can communicate their expertise with others and solve a problem or create convenience through their know-how.

Communication skills and confidence are not just desirable traits of an expert, but they are essential. By trial and error, a willing person polishes communication skills while retaining or increasing their domain knowledge. Inability to communicate efficiently can lead an expert to develop emotions of angst and frustration. Look around yourself, the most well-known person in a particular field of work may or not be the best in the business. What sets people apart who have identical knowledge is their ability to engage and enthral the audience. In the contemporary world, providers and seekers of knowledge have several mediums to get in touch.

Faith in Experts

In the past year or so, has your faith in experts increased or diminished? I know, it is a difficult question. Still, try to think about this question, once you are done reading this article. The diversity of knowledge in our world creates relevance for experts. An investment expert will trust the expertise of a doctor in case of a medical procedure, while the doctor may seek the services of an investment expert, who may or may not be his or her client, to park surplus funds. There are countless possibilities where one person is the expert, while the other person is seeking advice and vice versa. Trust is not built overnight, and sometimes it takes years for someone to be hailed as an expert in their domain. Covid-19 has given birth to several thousand experts overnight. Whether it is the subject of immunity or vaccination, the volume of misinformation is alarming.

How to Spot a Fake?

Internet is a big part of knowledge economy. Since the past decade, most of the content on the internet is user generated. Lack of moderation and institutional validation make it difficult to spot a fake. The extent to which fakes have blurred the perception gap between themselves and an authentic content is baffling. A con man can be spotted in the crowd while they are making unrealistic and unsubstantiated claims. Look out for a person who has cropped out of nowhere and may be trying make some quick buck. Even the most attentive and vigilant person can get fooled by a pretender. Common sense and caution are never out of fashion; it can save you from financial loss and safeguard your overall well-being.

Common Characteristics of an Expert

  1. The ability to say “I don’t know”: It is plausible that a person who has expertise in a given domain, may not have instant answers to all the questions thrown at them. Real experts do not have any apprehension about admitting ignorance with respect to a given subtopic.

  2. Gaps in fundamental aspects: When someone is clueless about the fundamental facts of their proclaimed area of expertise, it should be noted as an early warning signal.

  3. Intellectual honesty and curiosity: Real experts are continuously learning new things about their field of work. Whether it is taxation, physical fitness or tea tasting, every field is evolving constantly. In almost all the fields, there is no finality to mastery.

  4. Real experts improvise and teach: An expert’s knowledge is not restricted within the constraints of one-size-fits-all. Imposters usually have a copy-and-paste approach, while a real expert can modify the template as per requirement.

Who is an Expert?

After talking about domain knowledge, communication skills and few other characteristics, let us try to simplify the definition of an expert. Albert Einstein is one of the most prolific thinkers in human history. On the subject of knowledge and expertise, Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If you toss a coin, what is the probability of getting head or tail? If we flip the coin a few hundred times, the result may be skewed in favour of head or tail, but the long-term probability of getting a head or tail after flipping a coin is half (0.5). When there is an equal probability of either result, it can safely be termed as a game of chance.

By the same analogy, a person cannot be termed as an expert in a field if one of their observation is wrong and the next one is spot on. Society certifies someone as an expert. Relentless PR activity and self-attestation can never become a substitute for lucidity of knowledge and proven track record.

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