According to David Clutterbuck , co-founder of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, ‘An expert is someone whose existing knowledge hinders their new learning.’
Hearing this takes me right back to my University days when learning about evolution. During that time I realised that specialisation is the last stage before extinction. In the animal kingdom, ably demonstrated by Darwin’s Galapagos finches, creatures can become so tuned to their niche environment that any changes to their surroundings makes them incapable of survival. Death comes to them like the Dodo.
Evolution is not about survival of the fittest but rather the survival of the most adaptable yet Clutterbuck’s comment goes further. Evolution comes about through millions of changes driven by chance but knowledge is gained as well through choice. Becoming an expert is a conscious decision. There must be a life lesson here.
Specialising in a chosen subject is essential to gain the marketable experience you need to carve out a career yet beware, a balance must be maintained. Become too much of a specialist and any changes in that market could leave your skills extinct while being not specialist enough can leave you without any market value.
This is what Clutterbuck meant. The act of becoming an expert can close your mind to alternatives. To consider contradictory evidence to what you know unpicks the years of investment you have made to garner such expertise. Contradiction challenges your authority in that subject and in turn is a direct criticism of you.
This is why understanding is quantum rather than linear. We know all there is to know until the subject experts become extinct, or at least their influence wanes and new knowledge is not hindered by their expertise. New insights are created and we enter a new knowledge paradigm.
It is the wise person that understands that knowledge is boundless. We need to keep our minds open to the endless possibilities. Knowing this, who would want to claim to be an expert?