Being an Expert

Credibility is in a way related to demonstrated success, which in our minds is transformed to expertise. When somebody does something well, we say, she must know a great deal about this. That’s why it’s easier for people to hire freelancers they’ve been working with before with (at least) satisfactory results. But whenever there’s a new face showing up, we’re sceptical. And for these new faces it’s very hard to prove their expertise, and it’s getting harder day by day. Just because they’ve done a good job for somebody else there’s no guarantee they’ll do a good one for us, because our situation is different, and there are dozens of other reasons easily made up to hesitate.

Thing is, being an expert has not become easier. How’s that?
In the end, it comes down to a simple formula:

Expertise = amount of knowledge in a particular field รท availability of this knowledge.

It’s as simple as that. In areas that have been explored for long and by a lot of people, as economics, there is a lot of knowledge around, giving a lot of people the idea that just because they know something, they’re semi-experts, and they can learn the rest from Wikipedia. Time is not a critical factor because it doesn’t matter how fast you reach the boundaries of an area. So in economics we have both a lot of knowledge as well as good access to it, which makes the former the critical factor. In other areas, which are more at the fringes of awareness or imagination for the most of us, the situation is different: There might be little knowledge (some things you can learn in an hour), but the availability might be little too, so it’s access that’s the critical factor.

But in the end, repeatedly demonstrated success outguns every bookshelf or diploma-decorated wall.


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