How do you identify an expert?

December 11, 2023

How do you identify an expert? Let’s look at what defines an expert. Training and experience, right? But how do you tell an expert apart from a non-expert?

What does an expert look like?

That’s easy to answer, right?

  • A doctor wears a white coat.
  • A mechanic wears overalls.
  • And a plumber wears, well... let's say low-cut jeans, shall we?

So if it looks like an expert, and talks like an expert, it’s probably an expert, right?

But do we listen to experts?

We’re weird creatures. We crave expertise, as long as it matches what we expect. But if it’s expertise outside of our own expertise, we suddenly seem to feel like experts.

Or maybe there’s some relationship between how familiar you are with the topic.

If it’s something you have no experience in at all, and don’t even understand, you probably use visual cues to decide whether to trust an expert. The more extreme the cues, the more likely you’ll trust them. But if it’s a topic that you have some knowledge on, I suspect you become skeptical of experts, particularly if their recommendation doesn’t match your opinion.

This is a dangerous situation - familiarity with a concept doesn’t equate to expertise. Lots of armchair quarterbacks would be awful on the field.

Are you a data expert?

So, for data the question is whether we think we’re experts or not. Does your understanding of spreadsheets make you an asset for your business or a liability because you don’t feel like you need anything more advanced? And if you don’t know anything about data and data analysis, what sort cues do you use to identify an expert?

Do you look for some smart looking kid, perhaps a bit nerdy wearing glasses? A hacker wearing a hoody? Ironically, if you were a data expert, you probably wouldn’t look for any cues. After all, you would rely on what the data tells you.

And perhaps that’s the best evidence you can use for expertise.


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