What is expertise anyway?

Yesterday I participated in a PKM chat on the limits of best practices. This was my “ah-ha”


I said this because I believe the value in “best practices” are found when you use them as guideposts for learning and adjust them to meet your needs. This is where working out loud is critical. It is how you adjust them, make them your own, and give back to the world for what it has given you.

This is not however my biggest takeaway from this chat.  All the talk about best practices got me thinking about the nature of expertise and if there really are experts.

It used to be that there were only a few experts producing best practices.  They were easy to find but this really isn’t the case anymore (see Harold Jarche’s article on Who are the experts? for more info on this).

With people working out loud and practicing personal knowledge management we are creating and sharing our best practices.  Does this in essence make us all experts?

I think so.  It’s not that I don’t believe in expertise it’s just that the nature of expertise has changed for me. There are people whom I do consider experts  Jonathon Anthony, Harold Jarche, Julian Stodd and John Stepper are high on my list but it’s not because of what they know.  It’s because they have taught me the opposite:  It’s what you give. It’s being open to feedback.  It’s asking for help. It’s accepting and encouraging the growth of your ideals and concepts.  This to me is a sign of true expertise.

What does expertise me to you?


2 thoughts on “What is expertise anyway?

Add yours

  1. I truly love your conclusion.

    “What does expertise me to you?”

    In “expertise” we have a topic, a discipline, an expert, the one who holds the knowledge and finally those who absorb it.

    Here you turn it the other way round. The topic becomes you (me), we become the observers. It’s confusing but reflect the state of mind we had yesterday when deconstructing this idea of best practices.

    I love preparing #PKMChat topics because it is an occasion for me to force myself to dig into topics from the point of view of others. You can’t build a good chat without taking into account all participants, not just your POV.

    While preparing it, I had the idea that WOL was just the opposite of Best practices and if you combine them you get the best of both worlds. With WOL the guy who is neither an expert or a practitioner becomes the center of the scene. It reverses the chain I gave at the beginning. He is simply doing is work but makes it observable with his errors, retrials. We can all start to comment and discuss around it (this is new). From this comes out not one best practices but a cloud of emergent practices. We apply our understanding (expertise) to your work (me) in our framework (you) and come out with an enriched view of what you just did. I used some poetic freedom in my comment, I admit.


    1. I love this in your comment: WOL brings “not one best practice but a cloud of emergent practices.” Looking at expertise as our understanding/view of the world makes sense to me as it is also a reminder that we need to be open to others thoughts, opinions and usage of this expertise.


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