540: New Expertise

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
540: New Expertise

What do you now speak about with ease that you didn’t talk about (or know about) previously?

Full episode script

Learning can be tough. No matter how much you love learning, taking the step out of your comfort zone to stretch and learn something new. Being a beginner can be both fun – and intimidating. So being able to learn something new to the point that you feel comfortable having conversations about it could be even more so.

As Leta Kene, a teacher at the Turing Institute wrote:

Being surrounded by Experts™ can be tough when you’re in a learning environment, because there’s a certain breed of Expert that really hates to admit that they don’t know absolutely everything about everything. Whether you yourself are an Expert, or if you’re surrounded by them, the net result is the same: you’re too afraid to ask for help or admit that you don’t understand something. What I’ve seen from my students is that the Experts in class don’t like feeling like rookies. They learn until they get the concept, and then they stop, secure again. But the students who don’t really care about being Experts are comfortable knowing how much they don’t know. The Rookies keep pushing. They get a concept, and then they test the limits of their understanding. They keep trying to poke holes in their knowhow, trying to expose their own ignorance so they can learn even more. They’re not afraid to look foolish, or to sound stupid — they know that asking questions will lead to more answers.

And asking those questions of one another can be one of the ways to build your expertise. As David Weinburger wrote in 2006 about his visit with the CIA:

And the CIA, typical of most knowledge organizations, draws lines around people, confining experts to their areas of expertise. This assumes knowledge is a property of experts. But better knowledge is a property of conversations. An expert’s ideas and knowledge can only be improved by being put out in public (well, the closed public of those in the agency with the proper clearances) to be debated and augmented. Mistakes of fact and limitations of viewpoint inevitably emerge.

Instead of thinking that topical knowledge exists in the heads of experts, we now have the ability to go back to the original meaning of topic: topos, or place. By creating intranet places where experts can share and debate what they know, new, better and more timely knowledge emerges.

So perhaps it’s not that you need to be an expert to talk about a topic, it may be that you just need to be curious and willing to learn and never be quite satisfied. And, of course, a willingness to ask questions.

Looking for something to listen to this weekend?

May I suggest The Brain Junk Podcast? I’ve got a bit of a personal connection to Trace and Amy, creators of this podcast. They took the Podcasting 101 class that Jeremiah and I taught in December of 2017, and they’ve now officially launched a show that I have to say I’m very proud of them for! It’s a show that explores all of the things you might want to know about a particular topic, in a way that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.