What is an expert?

relax I'm an expert

Wikipedia states that an “expert”  is “someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.”

It goes on to say an expert is….

…. more generally, a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be, by virtue of credentialtrainingeducation,

professionpublication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.

Historically, an expert was referred to as a sage (Sophos). The individual was usually a profound thinker distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.

I’ve spoken at many conferences and seminars about the intranet industry and what works and what doesn’t work, based on my personal and professional experiences. Does this make me an expert? That’s not for me to judge; that’s for the audience to determine.

There are many “experts” who tout their services within the intranet/digital workplace industry, who basically expound their views of how things should be done, based on their previous dealings with a variety of companies, and the supposed lessons learnt along the way.

There are also many companies who bring together like minded people to discuss how things should be (usually for a large fee), and provide “keynote speakers” (I dislike that phrase) to share their views and experiences, and based on whatever success these individuals have had, they are then deemed to be the “experts”. The paying audience are usually looking for an answer to their problems, and see the expert as the panacea to providing it.

An alternative approach would be to use the large network of contacts we all have access to and discuss our common problems. We may work in different industries, but our intranet issues and challenges are largely the same, dependent where we are on our journeys.

In my view an expert is merely someone who has an opinion, backed up by the relevant knowledge and who has earned the respect of their peers to share it in a considered way. It maybe right or it maybe wrong, but we all have an opinion, so surely that makes us all experts?

The difference between having a knowledgeable opinion and being an expert is therefore negligible surely?


So next time you’re looking for some advice, guidance,  the answer to a problem, or just want to bounce some ideas around, discuss it with your network. Not only will they be happy to help you, they will also probably get something out of the discussion too. And then you can both become “experts”.