The Expertise Dilemma

Scott Francis
Next Post
Previous Post

I loved this article in the Federalist, on the Death of Expertise. It beautifully captures a trend that we all have seen on Twitter and Facebook, whether it is religion, politics, science, or diets.  Especially diets, perhaps.

One might think that I’m writing about this subject because it pertains to BPM. Many a BPM “guru” will tell you how to run your business or what is or isn’t a process.  But how many of them have the track record of delivering those projects to fruition and getting the ROI for your business?  Okay, I admit. There’s a strong tie-in.  But let’s focus on the concept of expertise more generally, and the author’s take on it:

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

Compounding this lack of respect for expertise, is the other trend we’re witnessing, and that I’ve previously written about – we’re also witnessing a “democratization of expertise” – by which I don’t mean that everyone is an expert.  Rather, that it is trivial now to find experts and connect with them.  And as a result, we’re finding that expertise isn’t as rare as we thought it was.  Moreover, it is hard to tell that 90% of experts agree on something if the 10% are loud enough on Twitter and Facebook and the news.  This compounds the issue the author identifies- of distinguishing real experts from purported ones, as it is equally easy to connect with both.

Of course, this article captures the danger of discounting expertise (versus accessing more of it) –

To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine.

I think he puts his finger on some of the problems: there are no gatekeepers for expertise – and fools are just as easy to access as experts on the Internet.  Read the article, it is definite food for thought.  While we can’t go back to the days of editorial boards for what gets posted in the comments section, we might ourselves be a little choosier about who we invest our trust in – by picking people that are actually experts.