What do experts look like?

June 6, 2006

I spent much of the last few days working on a number of interview transcripts for my research.  One of the challenges when trying to put together a paper is how you carve up the space between those who are “experts” i.e. published authors, and those who are “applied experts” i.e. those who reflect on their experience of theory in practice when invited to participate in research projects such as my own.  When I submitted my Masters dissertation I wrote a chapter on that dilemma and made a decision to give equal weight to the published and non published experts.  Both complimented each other very well but I do remember weighing up that decision very carefully.
I suppose the reason it is popping into my mind again is that on several occasions over the last week or so I have found myself in conversations where the issue of “expertise” and who owns it has arisen.  I often ask myself – what am I an expert in or at? And how can I see the expertise in those I work with even when it’s a challenge to do so.
Increasingly I am looking at “difficult people” in organisations as “experts” about a certain type of organisational intelligence.  Sometimes the story they tell has to be shouted loudly and inarticulately for those who have “authority” to hear.   Perhaps I’m deluding myself but I do think that there is an expertise at work there…there’s also an expertise involved in decoding and hearing it and I think the real challenge is finding a way in which someone’s expertise can shine instead of asking them to modify that expertise into something that fits a preordained box which denudes them of their expertise in the first place.    In my fantasy life recruitment processes would be full of questions about how a candidate’s expertise could shine, what their suggestions for modifying or adapting organisations to fit them might be and what they themselves could contribute to the emotional temperature of a system…maybe someday!