Beware The Rise Of The Instant Expert

Beware the rise of the instant expert, typically self-proclaimed. It used to be that when we listened to someone with a microphone and a video camera, we trusted what they were saying. We believed in their research, their integrity and their reputation. We were disappointed some times, but it was a rare exception.

When we read something that was published in a book we attributed expertise and some deeper level of understanding on the topic. Magazines and even newspapers carried similar weight.

Anyone with a smartphone can now claim they are the expert on anything and everything. Using the latest tools like Periscope and Meerkat, anyone can broadcast live video to the world. Platforms like Google Hangouts on Air provide a capable platform to act like you are now Walter Cronkite and you should be believed.

I understand that even those usually trustworthy talking heads of the past were not always perfect. The recent Brian Williams revelations are an example that everyone is human, but historically they were considered a reliable and trustworthy source to deliver the facts in a fairly straight-forward manner without hype or puffery.

Instant Expert season has arrived. Times have changed.

Over the  last several years, it has become harder for me to sort through the myriad of outlets available and figure out what seems to be the truth, or at the very least, a well-researched observation that I can then analyze on my own.

Now, people who have no track record, no history and no credibility are standing on their live video feeds, broadcasting from their bedrooms and acting like they are the Oracle from Omaha (Warren Buffett for those that have not heard that phrase).

I produce live and online events for myself and dozens of clients. I record and view 8-10 presentations a week (usually with a fast forward button in heavy use) to learn the latest trends, techniques and styles that work well for the audiences we serve. One thing that has become clear in this practice is that there is a lot of garbage being touted as the latest and greatest by people with no history, no experience, no research and no credibility.

I understand we all have opinions. No problem. I welcome the dialogue. It is helpful and valuable. What is becoming clear is that the volume of the “just got my microphone and video camera setup for my birthday crowd” is becoming overwhelming. Add the impact of the smart use of  Search Engine Optimization, #hashtags and social media and it is nearly impossible to sift through the crap to get to the good stuff.

Trish Bertuzzi (@bridgegroupinc) shared an expression with me that I have kept in mind throughout my career of writing, speaking and training on web tools. I have modified it by swapping “tool” for “smartphone camera”. My apologies to Trish for butchering it here.

“A fool with a smartphone camera is still a fool!”

For books, self-publishing has eliminated most of the hurdles of getting a book published. Electronic readers like Kindle and Nook have provided the ability to publish most any nonsense instantly and made available to anyone with an internet connection. I use all of the tools myself, but wow have they lowered the bar.

Is it just me, or has it become extremely challenging to sift through the firehose of information and lock down sources that have earned the credentials and credibility of their topic?

What are some of the implications of these new “experts” and their distribution channels?

  • It is harder than ever to decide which authors, speakers and trainers to explore, which books to buy, podcasts and webinars to subscribe to and which blogs to read and subscribe to.
  • Credible expertise on a topic is harder to verify and establish. Claims of “the world’s largest, a #1 Best-seller, or the “worldwide leader in…” are everywhere and frankly, most of the time they are bull! Just do a quick review of random LinkedIn Profiles to see what I mean.
  • Social media has turned much of the research function into the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” scene, where people take “trending on Twitter” to mean that the information is valuable. Kim Kardashian anything trends on Twitter – but that in no way indicates the value of the information being shared. It simply indicates that a lot of people don’t have something more meaningful to do with their time.

I really want to read or hear your answers to these questions:

  • How do you sort through the volume and find those that add real value to your life and your livelihood?
  • Are you watching the latest backward baseball cap, dirty t-shirt wearing, unshaven for 4 days expert tell you how you should be running your business?
  • Do you put any value to the many lists of the TOP XXX Experts in ______ that are published every month?

I value your thoughts and input on these questions and learn from your experiences. Share your comments below and we can all learn from each other.

 

  • This hits really close to home for two reasons:

    1. As someone who reads 100+ business books a year and has for 23 years, I now find it hard to discern good books by real experts who deliver great value, from terrible books that tout #1 Best Seller and are a complete waste of time. A lot of people who write business books have no business writing books! They have never run any kind of a business, let alone a highly successful enterprise. But with self publishing and cheap video tools – charlatans are spouting off ideas that will actually hurt the businesses who follow their advice.

    2. I have seen a slew of books, videos and courses on, “How to become a thought leader.” That is especially troubling for me because I actually am one! I have spent the last two decades of my life traveling 200+ days a year, all over the world to build up the experience nessary to truly add value to my clients and my industry, only to have some fool just slap that on their website and completely discredit the title.

    I am as upset as you are, but I know that at the end of the day as long as I continue to learn and work as hard as I can for my clients it will all work out just fine.

    • John, Honored to have you share your thoughts here. If I look up “expert” in the dictionary, your smiling face is right there – nuff said!

      I received a direct email from someone this morning that read the article and took offense to the Best Seller comments I made. In the email, he sent me a screen grab from Amazon that shows his book as #1 on Amazon in a specific category. As more and more people are learning, if you get a book on Amazon or Kindle, and get 20 people to buy it at a specific time immediately after launch, it will show up as a “best-seller” for that specific point in time. That does NOT make your book a best-seller, but many people use that “proof” to claim that in their claims, websites and LinkedIn Profiles.

      Only those like you, who have truly published books that achieve the New York Times Best Seller status, or even Amazon for an extended period truly know the years of research and experience, mistakes and triumphs that provide you the knowledge to earn the title of Best-Selling Author and Expert.

      Keep on doing what you are doing – sharing your expertise and knowledge to anyone willing to listen.

  • It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Technology has also provided the ability for real experts to gain attention where they may not have had the opportunity in the past while creating the problem you describe. For example, I have become aware of ridiculously talented people that I probably never would’ve known without technology.

    For me, credibility comes mostly from the recommendations of others and affiliations with known organizations. The other filter I use is that a product or production should have the look/feel of a professional – if it doesn’t, it becomes suspect until proven otherwise.

    I have become cynical in a short period of time – I put absolutely no credence in claims that people make…I judge the value of the content and trust the recommendation of people I know.

    • The recommendations of others is an ideal use of the tools of social Kelly. It is the cynicism that is most concerning to me. How will lifelong learning suffer if we all become cynics?

  • I agree with Kelly that it’s a two-edged sword but for a different reason.

    Today’s instant access to communication channels has opened up a wide variety of experts and opinions we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to at all. There are voices sharing great ideas & insights that in a more “traditional” publishing model probably wouldn’t have access to or the means to share their ideas.

    There are also plenty of people who frankly haven’t been honing their craft for long but that have great instincts, are innovating with new ideas, and are worth listening to.

    Clearly there are still plenty of shysters and charlatans out there too. The noise level definitely seems to be increasing. Sorting through the rubble is becoming increasingly difficult.

    But I’m personally gaining immensely from the diversity of voices out there today. And both Miles & Kelly, you’re both right that recommendations and trusted word-of-mouth is making the sorting between solid & slimy much easier.

    • Matt, you make a great point about those that might not have been heard via the traditional models. I know you are a lifelong learner as I am, and get excited to find a new voice that I have not heard from before. The power of diverse ideas, opinions and approaches is part of the “juice”, the energy that comes when exposed to new ideas.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Matt. Now, get back to that farmhouse remodel! 🙂

  • Brilliant post Miles. Social networking and the continual evolution of the tools that enable the unwanted to intrude on our time, divert us from priorities, make Andy Warhol’s statement (everyone has 15 minutes of fame) more real.

    As Kelly says, it is really a double edged sword. It enables people to discover new ideas and different points of view more easily. At the same time, the escalating noise level from everyone trying to proclaim their fame causes many to switch off.

    Like Kelly, I’ve become very cynical:

    1. Anyone proclaiming themselves and expert or guru is immediately suspect. I don’t think Warren Buffett invented the “Oracle from Omaha,” and is probably embarrassed by it.
    2. Being an expert is something earned, not declared. So one can’t proclaim one’s self an expert.
    3. Everyone will have a different point of view-which is actually pretty cool. A set of experts to one person will be very different from the experts of another person. The diversity of great ideas–whether from an “expert” or someone just struggling to make something happen are things that each of us can learn from.
    4. There’s a silliness to the lists. Hopefully, with the burgeoning number of lists, people are becoming numb to them. Each list has an agenda, so it’s reader beware. It’s important to discern the agenda of the developer with the list. Often more can be learned by looking at those not included on the list. At the same time, I do discover new people with interesting points of view–whether they are experts or not–on these lists.
    5. As perhaps a corollary to Trish’s statement about a fool with a smartphone is still a fool, we have to remember W.C. Fields statement, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    Thanks for a fun post!

    • David, you nailed it with all your points above and especially like #1 and #2.

      It is #3 that I think makes the online experience so interesting-broadening our thoughts beyond what we physically can observe.

      #4- Key point is to understand the agenda behind publishing the list in the first place.

      I always appreciate your point of view – thanks for sharing it here.

  • Miles – I applaud your honest and heartfelt post. In answer to your questions:

    “How do you sort through the volume and find those that add real value to your life and your livelihood?”
    When I first started out, I created a myriad of folder which I feverishly stuffed with must-read info. I never found time to read even a fraction of it. Now, I’ve unsubscribed from the ludicrous number of newsletters that I signed up for and I’m much more picky. It does take time to sort the wheat from the chaff but I look for top influencers now.

    “Are you watching the latest backward baseball cap, dirty t-shirt wearing, unshaven for 4 days expert tell you how you should be running your business?”
    Not any more. I watched a lot of them when I first started…until I came to my senses and realised if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

    “Do you put any value to the many lists of the TOP XXX Experts in ______ that are published every month?”
    Nah, I have my own favourite experts now 🙂

  • Mary, Thanks for your kind words and for your responses. I too, have folder on top of folder of things I was planning to get to but never did. I have moved most of that over to Evernote, so now, I can search through it all with keywords to find what I want when I need to.

    Your thoughts on watching those videos with false promises and empty credentials is a problem, especially as you point out. With a little bit of savvy, anyone can get a listing on the first page of Google under most topics. Most of us go to Google to get a quick answer on what we are seeking knowledge on. Maybe our trust in the search engines should be lowered.

    Smart to build your own favorite expert lists now. It is easy to do with Twitter and other tools but many have not taken it as far as you have.

    Great to have you share your experiences with the rest of us to learn from.

  • If I read something that interests me, I try to engage the author; I want to talk to that individual, get to know her, dig deep and see if I can actually learn something or proffer some help. I want to establish a relationship, which will hopefully lead to some form of collaboration. If what I read doesn’t grab my interest, it’s on the next. In other words, someone has to SHOW ME she’s an individual who knows her stuff, a person who’s providing genuine value. That’s what I rely on–my subjective judgement of the person’s work, which leads me to a conversation where my instincts about the individual herself come into play. I take nothing for granted; I know there are people out there who want to be all things to all people, who think they’re the genius who’s “discovered the wheel.” But once I start asking questions–personal, as well as business–it’s going to be difficult to fool this old goat.

    • Robert, Thanks for weighing in here. It sounds like we have both met the genious who’s “discovered the wheel”. As always you weave your point into a story that we can all learn from.

  • Miles,
    The two edged sword point of view has me in agreement with Matt, Dave and Kelly. It’s easier for Everyone to be seen and heard, the good and the less so. It’s still about the philosophy of qualify and match, I now add advice of using intuition as well.

    As far as the lists go, I’ve seen myself included on many. But the fact remains these are marketing / branding tools.

    On the positive side, by sharing our best insights is now seen globally. For those who strive to always put out their best, have the clear advantage.

    • Elinor, as always you are on target. The lists are clearly a branding tool for the publisher. and they can provide a starting point for those that want to learn more. I find that most often those included on the lists represent a fairly diverse set op opinions and approaches. I find that helpful as a starting point. David Brock pointed out above that sometimes the story behind the list is who is NOT included.

      I make some, I miss some. I congratulate those that make the cut regardless of whether I am included or not.

      Global is very real. I never thought I would be having conversations with really smart people in Qatar, Dubai or Australia but it happens because the power of social platforms and the internet.

  • Miles

    Very interesting, I have been named on a variety of “top” consultants/visionary/etc lists over the year… and while the ego kicks in, I was stopped dead in my tracks about 2 months when a list was published and I wasn’t on it, but when I saw who was on it and frankly without an ego reaction, it made me realize that with social media/internet that most anyone can publish any “list” and can rank almost anyone for anything.

    So separating the wheat from the shaft is still an important aspect.

    • It is Ken, and is becoming more challenging as the bar continues to be lowered. It all comes down to the 3 simple questions that I ask at the end. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I hope others are learning as much as I am.

  • Miles,

    Great post!

    For me, I look for real world experience. I am always suspect when testimonials or referrals are abstract, “A manager in manufacturing”, vs. real name from real company with real outcomes.

    The other aspect for me is that there is a clear difference as you highlight between being an expert or being popular. An expert can deliver and validate value, popular people stick to feel good concept.

    I saw a mutual friend Mike Kunkle speak yesterday, and he pointed to something that I think fits well here. Experts will show you how to figure it out given your specifics, the others just wanna tell you “what to do”, without much regard for you or your specific situation.

    • I really like your thoughts on being an expert and being popular Tibor as well as what Mike Kunkle shared. “Experts will show you hot to figure it out given your specifics, the others just wanna tell you ‘what to do’ without much regard for your specific situation”

      Them thar’ are golden nuggets – thanks for sharing them.

  • Miles,

    I’ve been thinking about your questions.

    1. How do you sort through the volume and find those that add real value to your life and your livelihood?
    > I honestly find that I don’t do a great job at this. Other than word of mouth the fIREHOSE (love the punk band not a big fan of all the information) has me a bit discouraged. I find myself becoming more insulated in who’s recommendations I take, I think I’m lucky that I run with a really smart crowd.

    2. Are you watching the latest backward baseball cap, dirty t-shirt wearing, unshaven for 4 days expert tell you how you should be running your business?
    > nope, but occasionally I’ll participate in a forum to hear what people are touting. I tend to look for one nugget of info I can use or twist to fit my world.

    3. Do you put any value to the many lists of the TOP XXX Experts in ______ that are published every month?
    > I love to see when people I read make these list. If a lot of people I respect are there I do look for the names I’m not familiar with and check out their ideas too.

    I’d like to add my personal pet peeve that runs into this topic. Sharing statistics without proper fact checking & attribution. (case in point = the sales statistic that lists a bunch of % my favorite rebuttal is http://askthemanager.com/2014/06/92-percent-of-linkedin-users-believe-made-up-statistics/)

    • It is a challenge Lynn. I welcome differences of opinion and a good debate. When it immediately goes to idiot, stupid and jerk, I move on to something more helpful.

      Your addition of the pet peeve and link are shared by many. The bar is pretty low and your link helps us understand how low. Great to have you stop by and share your thoughts!

  • As a professional photographer who lives and breathes the photography industry this couldn’t ring any more true! Over the last few years, there has been countless photographers who claim “expert” status and insist upon trying to teach and host workshops neglecting the fact that they don’t even fully understand what their teaching. And for all the new photographers that join this game and journey, it makes it incredibly hard to weed out the good from the bad. My personal advice, do your research. If somebody says let me show you how to use twitter to build your business to six figures…but only has 1200 followers….red flag….A real expert usually won’t call themselves an expert, its just known because there is experience, reputation, background, etc. If this article offends anybody its probably because it’s true.

    • I hesitate to respond to this one, but what the heck. I think I remember something about apple…tree. How does that go?

  • Hey Miles,
    I just wanted to chime in here. Though I think there is a sentiment of truth in the problem of self proclaimed experts, but I think there is some generational bias here is well. When you look at the landscape of business it is changing and fast. Boomers may cling to experience and time under their belt and dismiss the young guys with hats turned backwards adopting new technologies but they won’t have that luxury for long.

    Here is the thing, structures are changing and agile business and thinking is more and more important. Being in business for 20 years is not always useful when new thinking is needed to adapt. I noticed most of the people who responded with agreement were likely later gen x or boomers. I see this in business all the time, the attitude of we don’t need a website, or social media is a fad, or we can do things as we always have. This is the battle cry of the laggards on the adoption curve who end up being the last to change when the opportunity and market has shifted already.

    There is a major contrast in boomers thinking and millennial thinking and there are elements to that here. I respect the quality of ideas whether it comes from an old expert or new rising star. With technology the tip goes to the innovators though business experience should be the context of using that insight. Blockbuster vs Netflix is a great example of what can happen when you dismiss an upstart with fresh ideas that disregard the old structures. What worked yesterday may shortly become obsolete thinking and strategy.

    • Gary Hart

      Ross,

      After reading your comment, I reread Miles post to discern whether Miles equated age with expertise and authority. His post targets people who claim expertise, using technology available to anyone to publish to large audiences on a variety of platforms, including eBooks, with minimal investment, yet without legitimate third party endorsement. Perhaps you inadvertently correlated the term “Instant Expert” with one’s age.

      I agree that age and experience do not create expertise or make one an authority. However, without the investment of time, one cannot become an expert. While Malcolm Gladwell said, “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours,” investing ten thousand or one hundred thousand hours for that matter, does not guarantee expertise.

      My career in sales on the front line and as a leader spans four decades and I’m still learning from people of all ages. A sales rep with only a few months experience might teach us all something new. And anyone with two, three or more decades of experience does not automatically win my trust.

      Book publishing makes an excellent example. Before eBooks unleashed self-publishing, writers depended upon publishing companies to get their work published, publishers that researched writers’ background and reviewed the content as scrupulously as possible. Not to say all publishers were perfect and that some publishers were not unscrupulous, but readers had less weeding out of false prophets.

      Miles article clearly makes the point that too many charlatans (of all ages) leverage inexpensive, powerful technology to claim authority, making it more difficult to discern experts from fakes and reliable information from fertilizer.

      • Ross Quintana

        Hey Gary, first of all love the Malcomb Gladwell mention he is my favorite author. I agree to become an expert time is a key factor, but this is also relative to the population. If you look at the article and see the keywords used for both sides being compared, you will see a trend of time being used for experts with words like history, and track record, even credibility all speak toward being around long enough in the system. This is really a Boomer mindset on success.

        Where this doens’t apply is in technology. If new technology like live streaming comes out, you don’t need to have been around with a track record to be an expert in using it. Maybe you are an early adopter and even in a few months you are using it so much you are an expert compared to others who are just finding it.

        The point I was speaking to which can be overlooked is that if you think of business as an older structure where paying dues was the norm them yes there is pushback towards new experts on the scene, but when it involves new technology and ways of doing things you may be the expert because others simply don’t have the right mindset to adopt the technology or don’t understand it. So in those cases that doesn’t make them charlatans.

        • Ross, jumping in here to your response to Gary.

          You say “you don’t need to have been around with a track record to be an expert in using it.” We are in violent agreement there if all someone is saying is they are an expert in ‘using’ it.

          I find the deeper value in getting past the using it part and sharing expertise in how to apply the tech to solve business challenges, integrating it into the flow of their day.

          Understanding how to click a ‘broadcast now’ button on Periscope is easy and most people can figure that out. What my readers are looking for is insight and ideas on how to apply that tech to their sales or business needs. How can it be used to improve their customer relationships and grow their business. ‘Using it’ vs. ‘applying it’ are two different topics and it is in the ‘applying it’ arena that experience and understanding stands out. If you just want to know how to ‘use it’ go visit TechCrunch or Mashable.

          • Barbara Giamanco

            A good post, Miles. One that raises good questions Like you, I agree that there is a vast difference between the ability to “use” a piece of technology and being able to apply technology in way that strategically solves business problems. That’s gap in knowledge and experience that cannot be understated.

            There is something to be said for the time it takes to develop expertise in anything. I mean, really, who is the expert driver? The 16 year old who just got their license and has been driving for 5 minutes, or someone who’s been driving for a few years and has learned through experience where the pitfalls and dangers are?

            There is value in having experience and paid a few dues along the way. The only people who want to argue that experience built over a period of time (and I’m not talking 20 years) is not needed are the people who don’t have it.

    • Tibor Shanto

      Ross,

      I think you are right, it is a generational things, except I believe you have it backwards, and you cannot dismiss the facts of the argument by pointing to boomers. First, you state that “I noticed most of the people who responded with agreement were likely later gen x or boomers”, so what. Many of us are also recognised as leaders if not pioneers of social selling, meaning we not only understand the things you speak to, but are thought leaders and most importantly, practice leaders. A number of us were recognized as the world’s top social sellers, not for what we say, but what we practice.

      In terms of your claim that there is major contrast between boomer and millennial thinking is just not supported by facts. There has always been a perception of new vs. old, going back to Noah, if you look at a Pew Research Center report ‘Who are the Millennials?’ You’ll find that they seem a lot like the hippies of the 60’s with similar battle cries we hear now. Having been on both sides of “can’t trust anyone over 30” and “can’t trust anyone under 30”, I just resort to asking Pete Townsend where he’s at now on their 50th anniversary tour.

      Times always change, the velocity of change continues to increase, but human beings do not change as fast as fashion or the wrapping on the same old repurposed.

      Miles point was around expertise, and what constitutes that. On your LinkedIn profile you state you have 2300+ connections, I have twice that, what does that say, I am not saying mine is bigger than yours, but…?

      The fact is that when print came into the main stream it increased the number of experts, when computers became main stream, it increased the number of experts, the internet, did so too. But ageless question is, did any of these things increase or improve the level of expertise? I am not sure that was answered here.

    • Barbara Giamanco

      Really, Ross. You went with the boomer versus millennial as your argument? Miles never went there, but interesting that you did.

      We’ve had this conversation over Twitter. Fresh approaches, adaptability, giving, community and all those attributes that millennials want to claim that they have the lock on apply to anyone of any age. I keep myself open to fresh ideas and approaches. As I said in another comment, I listen to what people have to say – ignoring how they dress – and determine if their message has relevance to me. What I see these days is a lot of people – of all ages trying to piggy back on the work of others. Gladwell and the research is right… to become credible you do have to live the work for some period of time. It doesn’t have to be 20 years but it is certainly more than 5 minutes. To suggest that omeone with years of experience is living in the past and not relevant today is simply about as biased as I think you can be. The benefit of experience often opens the doors to new ideas and thinking not closes them.

      I learn a lot from people of ALL ages. You could too if you would stop insisting that millennials are smarter and more adapatable than anyone of any other age. No one knows it all. No one.

    • Paul McCord

      I’m a bit late to the party but would also like to address Ross’s argument.

      I don’t disagree that in most cases millennials are more competent in the use of new technology. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are more competent in communicating, of connecting with other humans, which is the essence of the human experience.

      Technology is nothing but a tool. Every new technology has overpromised and under delivered. The new technology will do the same. It isn’t because the technology isn’t useful or that it can’t help people connect. It’s because it is only a piece of how people connect and it will always only be a piece.

      In the sales sector technology offers a great many helpful tools. But it isn’t a massive, earth shattering change. Airlines are adding seats because more business people are traveling. Outside sales people have more prospects to go see than ever before. UPS and the other overnight services are delivering more documents than ever before, the post office is delivering more direct mail than ever. Technology could replace all of this—video conference instead of travel or going to call on a prospect, digital signing and delivery of documents, email instead of snail mail.

      Why more travel, more snail mail, more paper documents? Human nature. Technology can’t replace human nature. We humans want the human touch. We want to see people face-to-face, we want a hard copy, hand signed document, snail mail is more personal than the mass of spam we get in our emailbox.

      Humans will be human. Technology will never replace all brick and mortar stores. It will never replace all outside salespeople. It will never replace the in-person meeting. It cannot replace the human.

      Social media can’t replace human face-to-face interaction. It can supplement and in less intimate connections can be the sole method of interacting, but whenever possible most humans opt for the human, not the machine.

      All of this to say that in a great many industries, sales being one, having an expertise in the use of a technology is fine but not essential. Understanding human nature and being able to connect is the most fundamental factor in success, not the use of a technology. The reason experience is a key to being an expert is the underlying communication and connection skills take time to develop and master.

      Certainly one might be able to master the mechanical in a relatively short time, but the far more complex human interaction skills take time and experience.

      • As usual, your insight AND experience comes through. The human spirit is a many faceted creation that serves us well if we keep it at the forefront of our awareness. I make a living writing and speaking about tools and technology, but it is always dangerous if the core human skills are not present. General Colin Powell used a term “force multipliers” that I always relate to tools. It is always a treat to have you drop you wisdom on these pages.

  • Miles – Thank you for sharing your well thought out thoughts. I agree with the comments of those before me.

    To sort all the stuff starts with establishing a credible network of people. Also having a personal development plan is also a must. I invest 60 minutes each day reading and read around 100 books a year beyond the journals, blogs, etc.

    The good news is after a sales lead had failed from one or more of those instant experts he or she is s prime sales lead for me unless of course he or she wants the quick fix.

    Thanks again for writing what many of us are thinking as well.

    • I felt this was a topic that was worth getting on the table for conversation and learning.

  • I tend to trust experience, Miles.

    Experience is a brutal and unforgiving teacher. It exposes your bad thinking. It reveals whether or not the actions you are taking produce the results you need. It leaves you with scars. And it guides your thinking when the next “next” thing comes along because you have greater context in which to make an evaluation.

    If I want to learn something, I most often look to someone who is already producing the results I want. It’s their experience in producing those results that gives you the framework for reproducing the result.

    Time has a way of sorting all of this out.

    Anthony

    • Well stated Anthony. I have learned that the value of experience becomes more clear over time. Emulate the producers vs. the talkers!

  • Miles, I appreciate your boldness with this post. Particularly in the sales improvement space, every time I turn around, there is some nouveau “expert” preaching deadly advice to salespeople and executives. I see some interesting similarities from these experts:
    1) they tell us that everything has changed and that we must listen to them now
    2) their new theories always point us to solutions they provide; they’re shameless in their transparency. Show me a “Social Selling” advocate who isn’t looking to promote his/her social selling speaking or training business. Not sure you can.
    3) they tend to spend a ton of time commented on everyone else’s posts and content. If they’re such in-demand experts, shouldn’t they be tied up working with their clients instead of sitting in their basements incessantly churning out content and comments?

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. It feels good just to vent 🙂 A low barrier to entry is wonderful in many ways. I’m hugely appreciative for the platform I’ve been given and for the opportunity to share content and my experience with those that benefit from it. But that low bar today is also dangerous. Be careful to whom you listen and be wary of pontificators and trolls… self-proclaimed experts with no clients or testimonials. Anyone can publish; not anyone can deliver results.

    • You know I always appreciate your perspective. Your 3rd point resonates with me – always commenting and/or sharing but adding nothing new or fresh that they create themselves. They claim “amplify” but the truth is 100% of what they are putting out is on the shoulders of giants. Smart people I know recommend 80+ percent should be sharing others but 20 percent should be your own original thoughts. Otherwise, I will just read the original posts from the creator. Add value, stimulate thought or be gone I say.

  • Miles, great post. I’m glad you posted this – it’s such a critical dialogue. If I may, I’d like to add to the definition of an “expert.”

    To me, a true expert can solve a variety of complex problems. Or even better said, a true expert knows when to solve a complex problem and when to walk away from it. Often, experience is critical to this ability/wisdom, but as Ross pointed out, it may not be mandatory – especially if the problem has only recently emerged.

    The key, therefore, is to evaluate the kinds of problems that the expert is promoting as the foundation of their expertise. Frankly, I could care less about anyone’s expertise (including my own) of the problem is not complex or relevant to what I am trying to do.

    The problem with so many of these so-called experts is that they truly know how to solve problems – that mattered 20 years ago. A true expert is someone who refuses to live in the past and constantly learns/unlearns based on the present (and future). They can surely leverage the past, but as Bob Terson said above, the journey never ends because they evolve as the problems evolve. At least for the kind of experts I want to engage with.

    Bonus thought: let’s also not equate volume of marketing activity with expertise.

    • Helpful input Tim. We can all do better by remembering your bonus thought!

  • Hi Miles,

    Awesome post, and kudos for all the conversation it’s generated!

    One point that I haven’t seen mentioned, is that along with the opportunity for anyone to publish anything in any format, which makes finding the good stuff harder than it used to, we get unbelievable transparency to things that used to be opaque–like the “real” price of a car, your personal health record, “truth in lending” disclosures and much more, probably better, examples. I kid you not, when I was pregnant (my kids are now in their 40s), there was not a doctor,nurse, or hospital that would report to me my own blood pressure reading!

    I welcome the new technologies, and even the new trends, all the while acknowledging that the amount of noise we have to get through is a real challenge. But I also love that we no longer believe that anything in print (such as your newspaper) has to be true because it’s in print.

    Thanks to all for stimulating conversation.

    • Thanks Barbara! The post is focused on the 3 questions at the end. I asked them as questions because I really wanted to learn from others. And learn I have and will continue to.

  • Miles – I neglected to answer one of your key questions. What do I think about the ragged, unshaven, unshowered expert set? I think what you say or do and how you dress really depends on our audience. If the super casual approach works for the audience you serve….cool. Looking to be a speaker on the main stage of a conference hosted by major corporations.. might not work so well. For me personally, I strive to learn from anyone and everyone. When watching hangouts, presentations and interviews, I challenge myself not to get caught up in what people are wearing. Instead, I focus on what they are saying. If what they talk about is relevant and credbile and applicable to me, I will listen. If all someone does is regurgitate what’s been said for years and brings nothing new to the table, I am definitely not paying attention.

    As for the lists… most are paid for an/or cleverly constructed marketing campaigns. It is almost comical to watch how many people named on those lists get caught up in the hype. I can create a list and deem anyone I choose an “expertt”. Does that make it true? Not necessarily. Only true from my point of view.
    The list I care about? My client list. As long as customers keep hiring me, because they believe I bring some level of credibility, experience and value to them, that’s all I care about. The popularity contests? Who cares.

  • Miles thank you for raising the discussion on how the internet has leveled the playing field between true experts and folks who are pretenders.

    As I was reading the article I thought about political leadership and elections. The reality is politicians who come off well on media and understand social media get elected even though they may have little or no substance.

    I think the same applies to sales experts. Some experts are academic and have never carried the bag or have never managed a team of sales reps or managers. Yet they are experts on studies and concepts. I know when I search the web for expertise it is a real challenge some “so called” experts only want to sell you a course and run. Some have recently joined the ranks of “sales experts” and are proficient at developing content and video.

    It’s a tough call. At the end of the day the real experts are those who inspire us to take action, provide sage ideas and helps us tackle the challenges we face in growing sales.

    As in everything we do “Caveat emptor”

    Let the buyer beware.

    • Steven, I hadn’t put this in to the political arena before. As a political science guy, I found myself nodding all through your comments. It is probably applicable in every part of life.

      As always, Let the Buyer Beware.

  • I couldn’t agree more. My rant about marketing pundits from a few years ago. http://www.blockbeta.com/blog/protect-yourself-from-rampant-and-unfiltered-marketing-advice

    To answer your questions:

    I try to avoid sorting through the volume, but occasionally get sidetracked by the random article. I get most of my real info when doing research on a particular topic I’d like to cover.

    I don’t follow people without cred. I check that first. And no, the creators of top lists are often biased, not in a way that’s useful.

  • Robbin, Great to see you stop by. I went to your link and recalled reading it when you originally published it. Still rings true to me.

    I appreciate your fourth bullet point specifically, “Those who confuse strategies and tactics.”

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us here.

  • Great post here! With the internet making it so easy for anyone to come along and claim expertise, I think it’s definitely true there’s a lot of “instant experts” hanging around nowadays. Thanks for sharing your insight on this!

  • You are so right. Sometimes all those out there that are expounding and promoting different things remind me of the homeless person yelling in the streets. However,
    new leaders will emerge from this, and new and unique methods will be developed. I think though that someone positioning themself as an average person, who has found a break through for average people would be outstanding. bit.ly/ToddMeadows

  • davebrock

    Outstanding post Miles, though I have to admit, I read this when I came back from the gym–realized my cap was on backwards, my tee shirt was sweaty and smelly, and I hadn’t shaved yet — maybe that makes me an expert. I took the time to take a shower and shave before commenting.
    Unfortunately, this issue will get worse, as more and more people find their voice in social media. The only real advice is “buyer beware.”
    It’s interesting, those that I respect and follow for what seems to be to be legitimate expertise, never declare themselves that. In fact they do everything they can to avoid that label. I think it’s because while they have a lot of valuable knowledge and expertise, they know how much they don’t know and that knowledge is dwarfed by what they don’t know. They continue to seek to grow, learn, develop, and share that knowledge freely.
    By contrast, those that constantly (self) proclaim their expertise, “best sellership,” etc–it seems the greater their volume of claims, figuratively/literally, the less their true expertise. The famous line from Shakespeare comes to mind, “Methinks though doth protest too much.”
    Finally, the never ending lists of “experts.” I’ve no problem with those people who are up front with, “Here’s who I think are the top N people in [Fill In The Blank].” They are expressing their opinions and not trying to add a veneer of anything else. But those that tend to have impartial data/analysis/etc are often very suspect. I’ve been included on some of those lists, I understand the “comprehensiveness” of their analysis, sometimes I’m embarrassed to be on the list. I’ve also been approached with, “You can be on this list if you pay this fee…”
    We live in a world where anyone can claim expertise, so the only advice is “buyer beware.”
    Thanks for a great post Miles, you are, at least in my mind, an expert.

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