I was passing someone talking on his cellphone and heard the phrase “…but I’m not an expert, so I’ll leave it to the experts…” Having some of my own business to mind, that’s all I remember hearing before I was out of earshot.
We’ve all heard this being said in one form or other and might even have said it ourselves. Is it logical? Is it the right mindset to have? Since we all know, or seem to know, that we can’t know it all or do it all as we’re all fallible, limited human beings, isn’t it logical to leave it to the experts? That’s what experts are for, ja?
By now, you know what the answer is. Many experts indeed have very deep expertise in their fields, and we are all glad that they do. In times past, I might not have consented to go to sea in a submarine with you unless I knew that the submarine had been built by the Electric Boat Company and was crewed by seasoned submariners. Not too long ago, I might have had the same sentiments about Boeing aircraft. I don’t know if Boeing had fallen off a cliff recently, but they did have a reputation for building very good airplanes. Experts have to maintain their expert edge or they will become obsolescent or even obsolete. Worse, smugness tends to creep in and before you know it, their expertise has atrophied and they are no longer the experts. This happens to all of us because there is this phenomenon called entropy, where things fall apart, with or without our fault. Experts need to work hard in order to remain experts. No issues with differentiation here. What is needed is integration.
Please continue to be an expert in your field. At the same time, acquire know-how about stuff in adjacent fields, and perhaps some in fields that might seem totally unrelated to what your expertise is involved in. What is needed is “expertise” in seeing the bigger picture, in being able to work the spaces between different types of expertise, or even different types of teams, and make those spaces synapses instead of silos. What’s needed is being able to step back and maintain sight of the big picture, being able to ask the right and relevant questions and ascertaining the veracity and relevancy of answers given by respective experts.
We can’t all be experts in all fields. We CAN raise our competencies in the field of integration and leadership. Every expert needs to be able to do that. Are you willing?