Using experts wisely

Why is it so difficult to learn expertise from experts?
A "Have" and the "Have-nots" form a vicious cycle which drains the motivation and patience of everyone involved. The expert is presumed to addressing those who lack expertise and cannot come up with it on their own. The interactions are implicitly unilateral and over-powering. The transactions of expertise attempt to fix something wrong with the learners which gives them an experience of getting wronged.

How can the learners be made right when they lack expertise?
By combining expertise and user experience in a virtuous cycle. When the goal is to make the expertise useful, the users' context of use is essential. The learners know the situation where expertise may be applied, solve a problem or make a valuable difference. They are right about what good the expertise can be in their own contexts and what problems may be encountered.

What about learners who habitually expect to be framed as lacking expertise?
Abuse is addicting and the cycle needs to be disrupted by playing a different game. Power that has been used to over-power those perceived as lacking -- needs to be:
  • redeployed to empower the others
  • shared with learners who know something about their own situations and potential uses of the expertise
  • distributed across both domains of expert knowledge and experiences with attempted uses
Isn't this difficult for experts to transform themselves?
If it's approached as subjecting the experts to expertise they lack, it's nearly impossible. It's not difficult if the point of departure is their own personal problems with burnout, "talking to a wall", or lack of audience comprehension. The roles are simply reversed and they provide the user context for expertise that may serve them well.


  1. Tom,

    This is one of my favorite topics.

    I've always thought of my role as an orchestra leader who, at some point in the concert, joins the band. By the end of the program--if I've done my job well--I'm sitting in the audience applauding.

    One of the most lethal dynamics in consulting/facilitating takes place when the "expert" views the others as "patients" who have "problems." These kinds of "experts" see their clients as "sick" in some way...and the clients pick up on that very quickly and with understandable resentment.

    Experts walking into any situation would serve themselves well by asking, "What am I going to learn by being with these folks today?"

    They will be pleasantly surprised.

  2. Thanks for this stellar comment Steve! I morphed it into the next blog post.