The microwavisation of expertise

When speed becomes the underlying mantra in corporations while declaring expertise, there are serious ramifications on the organisation’s image and the community’s respect. Building expertise requires some amount of patience, serious thought, and creative, concerted efforts.

When we use the word ‘expert’, usually we have an image of an individual who has mastery over a particular subject or discipline and has most likely devoted a considerable amount of time building that expertise.

But in the hyperactive world, home deliveries are happening in minutes, we have drive-throughs to pick up food instantly after placing an order, and there are platforms on which can listen to podcast files at 1.5X/2X speed.

In many ways, the word ‘fast’ has become our guiding mantra now. Whether it is fast food, fast streaming, or fast lanes, the underlying theme is ‘speed’. In corporations too, the same mantra is applied in declaring expertise. So much that, there are times when a professional, who has been part of two short assignments, is proclaimed an ‘expert’ in a particular area.

This has ramifications.

Shoddy solution

Lack of adequate depth will almost always result in a solution or a product that is below the expected quality and at times it can be termed ‘shoddy’. This impacts the organisation’s/department’s image and may also result in some monetary losses. If this happens, it may trigger a blame game, resulting in the CYA phenomenon.

Perception management

What can one do when one has been branded too early as an expert by others and willingly or unwillingly one has played along? It then becomes a psychological obligation on one’s part to carry on the illusion, which means leveraging some other skills to ensure that the perception remains intact even when adequate depth is missing.

Usually, it’s the presentation skills that come to the rescue. If these are intermingled with confidence, one can sail through some challenging situations (especially if you are dealing with similar types of experts). At times, it also forces or encourages the professional to devote time to really build expertise and therefore reduce the dissonance between projection and reality.

However, in a fast-paced environment, this is difficult to achieve because of paucity of time and management of multiple demands/priorities. The worst-case scenario is when one also starts believing in the illusion.

Questionable role models

In a system where a certain number of so-called experts thrive, it invariably sets a precedent and soon it becomes an unsaid norm to project expertise even when you know that you don’t have it.

The process and culture of actually building expertise and appreciating it gets undervalued. In a lot of cases, such experts prefer to work and value others who share their value system and ways of working; this is because of similarity bias. If, in an organisation, in most of the conversations, we hear the phrase ‘let’s be practical’ in the context of expertise, I think it’s important to ask what we mean by being practical and, therefore, what we are willing to let go, undervalue, or even at times exaggerate.

Erosion of respect of the community

When this phenomenon perpetuates in any professional community, whether it’s technology, consulting, or coaching, sooner or later, the overall community is looked at with questionable eyes by a lot of stakeholders.

There is a suspicion about the value of expertise that one can really add as a professional. It may result in getting translated as a belief that there is no real expertise in this particular type of work/domain and that anyone with some years of experience and intelligence can effectively do the job. When this happens, the whole community suffers.

Creative ways to build expertise

There is definitely a need to look at creative ways of expediting expertise building in different domains.

Serious thought and concerted effort are required in designing ways and methods that create a space wherein:

i. multiple experiences (already experienced or futuristic) can be simulated

ii. limited experiences that one has acquired can be leveraged to build a deeper and wider understanding

iii. others’ experiences can be leveraged to expand the horizon and enable the fruition of insight(s) in less experienced professionals

But definitely one CANNOT lean on a hyperbole in front of stakeholders.

On a side note, I would like to mention that the microwave is a great device that quickly heats/reheats food in a safe manner. Experts like WHO tell us that ‘food heated in a microwave oven should rest for several minutes after cooking to allow the heat to distribute throughout the food’. It seems some amount of patience is required in every walk of life. And, yes, I acknowledge that 'microwavisation’ isn’t a word that's recognised as yet.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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