Creative Leadership

Beware of Online Know-It-Alls

There’s a fascinating piece on about the growing prevalence of “experts” who write about issues they haven’t actually experienced. In the burgeoning world of online advice, writer Sean Blanda classifies the different levels of “expertise” like this:

Group 1: People actually shipping ideas, launching businesses, doing creative work, taking risks and sharing first-hand learnings.  (In other words, people on the front lines.)

Group 2: People writing about group 1 in clear, concise, accessible language.  (Good writers and teachers on the subject.)

[And here rests the line of demarcation…]

Group 3: People aggregating the learnings of group 2, passing it off as first-hand wisdom.

Group 4: People aggregating the learnings of group 3, believing they are as worthy of praise as the people in group 1.

Groups 5+: And downward….

It goes to the wonderful John Galsworthy quote: “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” Many of the most pushy and in your face voices online these days are people who have the least skin in the game, who have taken the least risk, and are the furthest away from the action. We see it business on a regular basis (in fact, when it comes to people writing business or motivational books, the Bible verse from Ecclesiastes 12:12 comes to mind: “Of making many books there is no end.”)

But it also bleeds over into theology, responses to national tragedies, political ideas, and more. Certainly everyone has a right to express their opinion, but with the advent of social media, it’s become a world where everyone thinks they’re an expert. That’s why we now have thousands of online “theology cops,” “sensitivity cops,” “gender cops,” “environmental cops,” and more. There’s always someone ready to call you out on just about anything.

Jeff Goins said it well in his post, “Everyone’s an expert, but not everyone is a master.”

The lesson is that when you seek advice online, look for the people who have been in the trenches, not just the “know it alls” who have read about others in the trenches, and then have an opinion.

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  1. Great word, Phil. It’s a lesson, really, for all of us as we can be an expert in one area of our life and act like it in another – though we’re not. God has me focusing more on his specific plan for me which is 1) Impacting the marketplace and also 2) Ministering to His bride. Connecting with people who share the same vision is key for me. Such as helping God invade the 7 Mountains of society and letting the world go on without me having to express an opinion on everything else. Keep up the good work, Phil. While you’re doing that, I’m going to focus on being in group 1 and/or 2. Blessings!

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