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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Death of the Expert


I have a few friends who are ubber-bloggers. They say that people aren’t interested in anything over 200 words and that you should never try to unpack big ideas. I don’t seem to care. I’m an expert of the long blog. I assume these same people would also say that it’s a bad idea to offer pre-reading for a blog post. Oops. I made another blogger error. Read it. Its funny.

Pre-reading: Stephen Colbert’s tongue-in-cheek-critique of life as an expert

I believe that the idea of expert, the belief that we know our environment (job, field of study, world, etc) better than others has kept us from rightly responding to others. Rather than vulnerability or curiosity we guard our expertise with defensiveness.

This is highlighted in our educational process. Yesterday was my last day at Mars Hill Graduate School. From the outset, I was attending seminary so that I may have more knowledge and gain credibility as an expert of the bible, psychology, big strange words, etc. While MHGS is unique and they work to combat this traditional method of education...this is how “experts” train. We train our leaders by removing them from their context and stuffing them with answers. This answer stuffing often occurs in an isolated environment that does not allow for creative thinking or divisive view points. This is dangerous. Rather than teaching leaders how to ask better questions we teach them how to defend their position. Rather than inviting diversity of thought we teach that personal conviction is more important than empathetic interest in others.

However, it appears that the modern “leader as expert” paradigm is crumbling.

BUZZWORD ALERT!!! The next three paragraphs require that you have periodic readership of the NYT, The Economist, or Wired Magazine. Or maybe it just requires you are an expert of buzzwords…

One of the major components of globalization is that its shrinks the world and requires different cultures to acknowledge one another. This forced acknowledging can also be seen in the widespread return to urban centers (that I have frequently discussed here). When different cultures (hermeneutics, worldviews, traditions) rub against one another they work as critique. Experts meet experts and non-experts question experts leading to a deconstruction of an expert’s expertise.

This is all possible because of the large scale availability of information. People no longer have an information problem. All of the information that we need is at our fingertips. We can read journals, blogs, and studies on any area of expertise. You can pick up "Gardening for Dummies" and be on your way to budding watermelons or squash in a matter of days. You can learn how to play guitar, knit, or paint the MonaLisa in Microsoft Paint…all on YouTube. You can read the opinion of one expert and immediately find another expert's rebuttal. The information age does not allow for a great deal of expertise.

It appears as if expertise is now in question. Dialogue appears to be more highly valued than packaged answers. Top-down information dropping is less prevalent and input now flows throughout flat organizations. Websites allow you to rate the validity of reviews and comments….you can’t even pretend to be an expert online!

This is not to say that excelling in a given field is evil. In fact, I believe that we should all find ways to excel vocationally and relationally. I simply wish to point out that if we continue to battle the emergence of expert skepticism we will find ourselves exhausted from self-defense. We must embrace this skepticism and work to take a posture of curiosity. We can only be experts when we work to interpret, listen, and discern voices of difference. Wisdom is no longer found in expertise. Wisdom is found in the ability to ask, listen, and discern. This expertise is rare but one that you and I must seek.

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benjamin said...

Great words. Your heart and brilliance continually inspire me. You are deeply missed in the emerald city.

blaine hogan said...

Good stuff friend. I miss you.

selena said...

preach it!

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