Thursday, 29 March 2012

Why I hate experts and gurus

If I were a business guru this blog would probably contain lashings of easily forgettable jargon, a slick exposition of incredibly weak arguments and a mind-numbingly facile set of conclusions laced with impenetrable or deliberately obscure terminology!

Luckily for you, dear reader, I’m not and never will be a self-styled business guru or even an expert. I’ve got some good reasons for this and I’d like to share them with you now. They are conclusions that I’ve arrived at over years of hard-fought experience with a good percentage of mistakes and cock-ups made along the way. Learning by mistakes has reinforced my intuitive feeling that modesty and humility in business is, even today or perhaps even especially today, a good idea.

There are three main reasons for my thinking and I’ve numbered them below in what I believe is the correct order of importance. I’ve also included a few simple notes for each point to try and show that for me these things really matter. I believe they should be fundamental to all of us if we’re serious about the contribution our own business success can make to the national economic recovery. Attitude of mind is rightly often seen as a major contributor to a successful businessperson’s make-up – if you’ve got your attitude right wouldn’t it be a good idea to make a genuine attempt to help others fix theirs?

  • Experts and gurus can be intimidating and how on earth can you build up rapport – the single most important part of a sound business relationship – if you frighten your potential audience? The person you are addressing probably has problems, a lack of confidence and needs to learn but if you are trying hard to preserve your “expert” status can you really understand what it’s like to be in your customer’s shoes? Can you show you really understand their problems and show the empathy needed to win hearts and minds?
  • Experts and gurus can be confusing because they deliberately use language that’s difficult to understand. They make themselves inaccessible at the very time when their “customer” needs light shining on a problem not a further hurdle to overcome before that damned problem is solved! Long and complicated words or expressions are used, often with a bit of foreign language chucked in for good measure, to make the banal sound impressive, scientific and more powerful as an argument. Sadly the reverse is the case – vanity is being served and the argument remains unwon and everyone loses!
  • Experts and gurus can be wrong-headed, simply seeking to raise their own value and possibly further their own careers by using you as a test case or case study to demonstrate their own genius.
In summary, I would say there is a world of difference between being an expert and calling yourself an expert. Of course it’s essential that you know what you’re talking about (or as an “expert” might say – demonstrate full engagement with SME) but why not let others judge if you’re an expert or not and you simply get on with striving to be and do the best.

By the way, I gather SME in the context I’ve used it above means Subject Matter Expertise not Small and Medium Enterprise – glad I could clear that one up for you!