Subject matter experts have explicit knowledge from formal education and embedded in reports, manuals, websites, memos, and other corporate documents. But their implicit and tacit knowledge, based on their experience, is perhaps the source of their greatest value — whether the subject-matter expert with decades of experience who is lightning fast with a diagnosis and almost always spot-on or the manager whose team everyone wants to be on because she’s so good at motivating and mentoring.
Experts, no matter the domain, tend to have very similar attributes. Understanding these attributes allows us to start understanding how we build expertise.
|Critical know-how and “know-what”||Managerial, technical, or both; superior, experience-based techniques and processes; extraordinary factual knowledge|
|System thinking||Knowing interdependencies, anticipating consequences, understanding interactions|
|Judgement||Rapid, wise decision making|
|Context Awareness||Ability to take context into account|
|Pattern Recognition||Swift recognition of a phenomenon, situation, or process that has been encountered before|
|Networking (“Known-who”)||Building and maintaining an extensive network of professionally important individuals|
|Interpersonal||Ability to deal with individuals, including motivating and leading them; comfort with intellectual disagreement|
|Communication||Ability to construct, tailor, and deliver messages through one or more media to build logical and persuasive arguments|
|Diagnosis and cue seeking||Ability to actively identify cues in a situation that would confirm or challenge a familiar pattern; ability to distinguish signal from noise|
|Sensory||Ability to diagnose, interpret, or predict through appropriate senses|
One of the critical parts of being a subject matter expert is being able to help others absorb knowledge and gain wisdom through learn-by-doing techniques— guided practice, observation, problem solving, and experimentation.
Think of this as an apprenticeship program that provides deliberate practice with expert feedback, which is fundamental to the development of expertise.
Do your organizations have this sort of organized way to train an expert? How does it work?
16 thoughts on “Building Experts”