Byron's Babbles

Arguing With A Specialist

Posted in Educational Leadership, Experts, Explorer, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 2, 2022

The trigger for this post was a quote from Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Here’s the quote: “I learned a long time ago not to argue with specialist. But, history has a long line of specialists.” I have never liked the terms specialist and expert. Those are both relative terms. Both expertise and specialized should be viewed as processes instead of something you can achieve. If we keep doing something long enough, we’re bound to keep improving. Where I get worried is when we quit arguing with the experts and specialists. Actually, I was amazed as I went back through past blog posts how many times I have touched on this subject.

If we shift to a position of expertise and specializing as a process, we keep learning. Our mindset shifts to: I’m here to learn. Most of the people I know and respect who are considered experts and specialists are continuously learning, reading, practicing, trying. Each one of them is striving towards expertise. Anyone who calls themselves an expert is no expert. We need to be very careful of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Overestimating or underestimating our ability can both be disastrous. In one of my top five reads in 2021, Alien Thinking: The Unconventional Path To Breakthrough Ideas, we were reminded to “Approach things not as an expert, but as an explorer.” I’ve always been a critic of so called experts and this was a warning of the problem of acting like an expert. Authors Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade also posited that expert status can serve as blinders keeping us from exploring for the next way of doing what we are doing well now better or differently. I blogged about this in Be An Explorer, Not An Expert.

Let us not forget that expertise and specialization is a never-ending process where we keep striving to be better. Keep questioning and exploring for better ways.


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