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Follow Expertise, Not Necessarily Experts

I sometimes think this country has become hypnotized by “experts.” Whenever a problem comes up, a panel of “experts” – usually university professors is assembled to look for answers.  But does it really help?  Back in 2008, the experts thought the economy would keep growing, but in retrospect looked rather clueless. During his national address on the BP oil spill, President Obama said he consulted “experts in academia” on what to do, while reminding us his energy secretary has a Nobel Prize. As Peggy Noonan has written:

“There is a growing meme that Mr. Obama is too impressed by credentialism, by the meritocracy, by those who hold forth in the faculty lounge, and too strongly identifies with them. He should be more impressed by those with real-world experience. It was the “small people” in the shrimp boats who laid the boom.”

Mr. Obama doesn’t have much real-world experience, but in fairness, it’s not just him, but most of America that’s caught up in expert hysteria. Ph.D.’s litter the broadcast media, even commenting on things they know nothing about.  (I have a Ph.D. so I’m being perfectly transparent here.)

The problem is, the system is pretty much built on the idea that we have to be right all the time.  Publishers want best-sellers.  Movie studios want blockbusters.  Scientists want to score the big grants.  Pastors want mega-churches.  TV wants information right now – forget taking the time to make sure it’s actually correct.

When we live in a society that worships “experts,” we become a breeding ground for mistakes without even realizing it.  Greatness comes at the expense of learning from mistakes.  But we have to create a culture where honest mistakes aren’t demonized, but learned from and valued.

I don’t want my employees making mistakes because they didn’t work hard enough, do their research, or were lazy.  But I don’t mind mistakes when they happen because of over-reaching, trying something new, or exploring new territory.

While the academic superstars are meeting with President Obama to discuss ideas for stopping the oil leak, just remember all the nobodies out there who are already laying booms, working on new solutions in their garage, and cleaning wildlife covered in oil.

I’m all for learning from those who know, but sometimes we don’t need experts as much as inventors, risk takers, and people who are willing to get dirty.

I’m reminded that travel agents know all about exotic places but sit behind a desk.  On the other hand, tour guides have actually been there, know the location, and take you there personally.  As John Maxwell puts it, “Real leaders aren’t travel agents.  They’re tour guides.”

Which one are you?

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2 Comments

  1. Phil, You said “we become a breeding ground for mistakes.” How true in regards to relying on experts.

    And as for pastors wanting mega-churches, well that may also be a mistake.

    Here how it might be a mistake: If Jesus returns in Spirit, what mega-church would recognize Jesus come in a parishioner?

    As a matter of fact, Jesus had better not return in Spirit in the future in any sheep, because mega-church ministries couldn’t honor that!

    And also, Jesus had better not have already returned in Spirit in the NOW in any sheep, because mega-church ministries HAVE NOT honored that!

    In sum, we had better PRAY TO GOD that Jesus didn’t, doesn’t and won’t return in Spirit in any sheep, or too many churches, mega-churches and broadcast ministries will be proved worse at understanding God than BP does drilling.

    No, let’s just keep relying on the experts who serve us up religion. 😉

    Experts have worked perfectly in the Gulf, with government finance, our economy, our domestic manufacturing, our schools…… Oops, I guess they have NOT!

    So let’s keep believing the experts in church that tell us Jesus won’t come in Spirit in anyone! Whew! That’s a relief. For a moment there, I was going to believe Jesus has been, behold, coming quickly in humble non-experts!

    Maybe that is Jesus in you, Phil, warning us about experts! I salute the God in you, Phil! (Or would the experts in religion tell me not to do that?)

  2. Robert, all Christians carry the Holy Spirit within them, but when Jesus comes back, it will be an event that *no one* will miss!

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