…and when not to.

What happens when you bring in an Expert

Did you know tests were done by MRI scans on patients’ brains: when they were listening to experts the independent decision making parts of their brains shut down.

Did you know…. Doctors mis-diagnose 4 out of 10? That if you file your tax returns yourself you are statistically more likely to be filing them correctly than if you get a tax advisor for you? Financial experts have been getting it so wrong that we are living through the worst recession since the 1930s.

Democracy and rebelling against the experts

Because of our health, wealth and collective security – it is imperative we keep the independent decision making parts of our brain switched on. We need to become more open minded, more democratic, more open to people rebelling against our points of view.

Beware of hero worshipping experts

Experts tend to form very rigid camps, from where a dominant perspective emerges that silences opposition, move with the prevailing winds, often hero worshipping their own gurus. …Experts are not challenged by their peers till after a crisis.

Experts are located and governed by the social and cultural norms of their times. Paradigms take far too long to shift, complexity and nuance are ignored. Money talks – see the evidence of pharmaceutical companies, funding for drugs that conveniently leave out their worst side effects, or food companies massively exaggerating health benefits of their products – “7 times more than independent companies”.

Experts make mistakes

There are errors in surgeons operating on wrong parts; there are thinking errors – radiologists over-influenced by what the referring physician suspects.

Constructive rebellion

  1. Be ready and willing to take experts on and dispense with the notion they are modern day apostles. Persist in the face of their annoyance – “explain to us in language we understand”. Dig behind their graphs, equations, forecasts, prophesies. Go armed with questions: What are the assumptions that underpin this? What is the evidence on this is based? What has your investigation focused on and what has it ignored? Being a rebel – experts’ assumptions and methodologies can easily be flawed.
  2. Create the space for ‘managed dissent’ – to shift paradigms, make breakthroughs, destroy myths; create an environment where expert ideas are battling it out, bringing in new diverse, dischord and heretical views into the discussion, fearlessly. This is hard, we tend to surround ourselves with opinions we believe or want to be true. Draw the one with dissent into the discussion.
  3. Redefine who experts are – “people with advanced degrees, high status individuals”. Junk this notion and embrace democratization – leverage the ‘shop floor’ expertise already in the company.

Let’s let experts express themselves too, but encourage being comfortable with nuance, uncertainty and doubt.

Eyes wide open

Now is not the time to be blindly following, trusting. It is time to face the world with eyes wide open. Being aware of the limitations of experts, and our own.

Inspired by TED talk, Noreena Hertz http://bit.ly/fHocHd

A person skilled in transformational work does NOT come in as the expert but to guide, stimulate clear thinking, and intervene strategically to clear blockages.