In 2015, an eighth grader did some research into the story behind the ‘No Irish Need Apply’ signs that were alleged to have existed in 19th century United States. Despite claims in 2002 from a distinguished historian that the signs were a myth and had never existed, the eighth grader Rebecca Fried was able to prove the historian wrong simply by doing some basic research on Google. Not only did Fried found photographic evidence of the signs – but she found lots of it.1
Just because something is stated by an ‘expert’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.
Back in 1830, scientific writer Dr. Dionysius Lardner said rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia. And in 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co because the horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.2
There are many more examples like these, and this is why not all experts are as highly regarded as they used to be.
How Society has Raised the Bar for Experts
Until recently, society looked up to and respected all experts and their opinions. However, in our new internet-age, knowledge is available to all at the click of a button.
Previously, years of education, work experience, and formal titles were the ways most people used to recognize experts. Unfortunately, these are no longer good indicators. For example, materials studied in the past can now be outdated. And as for those people with extensive work experience, this doesn’t guarantee they operate in an efficient or high-quality way.
Titles like doctor of ____, or psychologist of ____ are licensed/exams-based, but whether qualifications are up-to-date is open to question.
Judging whether a person is an expert based on the above indicators fails to take into account for the way information and knowledge changes over time. Not all experts will be dedicated enough to keep up with the latest developments in their chosen field.
Traditional experts became experts by taking a lot of time to investigate topics, but nowadays, the internet has massively reduced the time needed to research or learn a topic. You could think of it this way: In the past, experts owned the knowledge, these days this knowledge is freely available on the web.
Clearly, the internet has rapidly shifted information from the hands of those who have it – into the hands of those who do not.3
Of course, the development of the internet hasn’t wiped genuine experts of the face of the earth. We should still respect real experts, especially those who have gone through the stages outlined below.
The Five Stages That All Genuine Experts Must Go Through
The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition lays out five distinct stages that all people must go through on their way to becoming experts.
Stage 1: Novice
- Follows the rules and plans they are taught.
- Lacks flexibility in handling works and challenges.
- Doesn’t know how to make judgements based on what they’ve learned.
Stage 2: Advanced beginner
- Has more experiences and starts to interpret different situations.
- Uses the same approach for different situations because they don’t have enough experiences to look deeper at each scenario.
Stage 3: Competent
- More holistic in handling problems.
- Starts to know how to interpret different situations with flexible plans.
- Starts to formulate their own routines to achieve things.
Stage 4: Proficient
- Able to solve problems intuitively.
- Continuously adjusts their ways and approaches.
- Perceives deviations from the normal pattern.
- Gives suggestions and guidance to others based upon their knowledge and experiences.
Stage 5: Expert
- Understands the whole picture intuitively with a deep and tacit comprehension.
- Creates the guidelines, plans and rules for others.
- Continuously self-tunes and self-learns.
- Knows how to handle problems that have never happened before based on their knowledge.
As the stages show, experts don’t need to be child prodigies or intellectual giants. In fact, ordinary people can become experts, provided they are willing to invest the necessary time and effort.
The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition not only shows how true experts are made – but also reveals what’s missing from fake experts. Let’s take a look at these people now.
Don’t Be Fooled by ‘Fake Experts’
Many people who claim they are experts are actually just at stage 2 or stage 3 of the Dreyfus model.
These people have gained some knowledge and experiences, but they have not embraced the continuous learning and self-tuning process that real experts have. Because of this, when these ‘fake experts’ encounter problems that they’ve never seen before, they fall back on the same approaches and methods that they’ve been taught.
However, when it comes to these challenging cases, traditional methods may not work, and so-called experts will be unable to come up with original resolutions. (Unlike genuine experts who have reached stage 5.)
You now understand what makes a true expert. Read on to find out how to become one.
The Journey to Become a True Expert
To become a genuine expert, you must start as a learner and move naturally through each stage. There are several things to pay attention to when you experience each of the stages, and here’s the guide to help you get through each stage efficiently.
From Novice to Advanced Beginner: Log Your Experiences and Knowledge
Your step from moving from novice to advanced beginner should involve the development of a personal library of experience. A logbook of experience and knowledge learned should be completed to show your progression. Ask for feedback from your tutor/instructor, and add this information into your logbook. Finally, log your reflections for actions you’ve taken.
Let’s say that you want to learn how to play guitar, as a budding guitarist, at this stage you’ll be learning more and more chords, scales and techniques. Be sure to note down as much as possible in your logbook, so that you can easily come back to what you’ve learned.
From Advanced Beginner to Competent: Grab Every Opportunity to Practice Knowledge
Learning is by participation and interaction with others. Normally, this takes place through the exchange of ideas and opinions. As you move from advanced beginner to becoming competent, you’ll evolve from the acquisition of knowledge to participating in learning. You’re likely to find yourself starting to see beyond the normal situations and beginning to suggest ways to do things based on what you’ve learned.
In the guitarist world, this is the stage where you’ll find yourself practicing more – and even starting to experiment with your playing.
From Competent to Proficient: Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
This stage will take you the longest because it’s rooted in continuous exposure to different cases and reflections. You’ll learn to look at things from different angles, and suggest different approaches based on what you’ve learned. With continuous reflections and experiences in guiding others to perform, you’ll deepen your knowledge and skills.
This is the stage where your guitar playing is good enough that you could start to help others to learn and improve.
From Proficient to Expert: Continuous Learning and Tuning
A true expert doesn’t stop learning. They continue to look for new methods and approaches for different cases. They also reflect on what they can do better, and keep a close eye on the ever-changing information world. If you’ve reached this stage, but stop learning and reflecting, you’ll eventually fall back to previous stages.
At this point in time, you’re a genuinely expert guitarist. You’ll be good enough to perform professionally – or to be a top guitar tutor.
True Experts Don’t Possess Knowledge, They Explore and Share Knowledge
Due to the impact of the internet, knowledge is no longer exclusively in the hands of qualified experts. However, just because we can now Google information at the tap of a key, this doesn’t mean that we’re all now experts. Genuine experts still need to go through the five stages of skill acquisition.
Now you know what you need to do to become an expert in your field. Follow the five stages, and work your way up to becoming a true expert.