Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

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In an Era of Super Specialty, Everyone is an Expert

The internet has made inroads into every little area of our lives. It has seeped in like water and we have soaked it up like sponge. Today, we hardly even recognize where our own thought begins and where it merges with the virtual space; it’s just one big interconnected database. Get into an argument and how do we resolve it? Google!

The advantage of course is that most of us today are well read, knowledgeable on a host of topics and if we feel we need to know more on a particular topic, or that someone is pulling the wool over our eyes, all we need to do is turn to the internet, or Google precisely.

This ‘know-it-all’ attitude which is growing increasingly common can also be annoying. Everybody believes they are experts on everything and because they have downloaded a few PDFs, read a few articles, have at hand a few how-to-manuals for dummies, and own a few half-backed ideas, move forth with the confidence of a veteran.

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Take a quick look at Twitter; you will see hordes of ‘social media experts’. Most of these folks are still in school, check out their tweets and they are all copy -paste content, try and find something original they have to say and its full of grammatical and spelling errors, and yet, they are self appointed, self proclaimed ‘experts’.

A while back I had a colleague who was a software developer turned business manager. To upgrade her skills, she was asked to try her hand at writing. So off she went, copy pasted a paragraph each from five different articles and mailed it over to me. “Look, this took me an hour, how can you writers take two days to do this?” was the questioning look. Of course I had to look back in exasperation. Are you kidding me? You think this is what business writing is about?

Another colleague downloaded Google’s how-to-do-it-yourself SEO manual and said, there you go, now we should be on page 1 for all our keywords!

In another incident, a friend of mine was getting a little pain on the right side of the abdominal area. Oh my god, could this be appendicitis. He had worked himself into a frenzy after reading a few article off the net, and noting that his symptoms tallied with the write-ups. Later that evening when the doctor heard the diagnosis he threw his head back and laughed. “Really, you people read too much and believe everything you read on the internet, it’s just some swelling of a nerve and nothing to do with appendicitis” he said and shooed my friend away.

In a strange way, the internet has trivialized professional rigorous learning and made an ‘expert’ of us all. It has taken away the authoritative voice, and made us mistrust anyone who specializes in a field. “oh that, anyone can know that”, “you can read that off the internet”, “oh, isn’t that obvious”, “aren’t you update” are the comments that are thrown back. Its especially sad when these comments come from other professionals and I think, “didn’t you spend years studying to be a programmer, then how can you say anyone can do that after reading off the internet”, “didn’t you spend years doing your MBA, and working hard at perfecting your skills then how can you say, oh that’s child’s play’.

In this world run over by information oozing off the internet, everyone is a guru, because they believe knowledge is theoretical, it does not come from practice, it does not come from intuition, it does not come from the heart or soul.  With the internet loaded over with information as it is, it’s not surprising, but is it time we did a rethink before we claim mastery over areas of which we know but two cents. We need to differentiate between theoretical, untested knowledge, versus some ones experience and years of study. We need to get rid of our ‘know-it-all’ pride and let someone be the expert of and in their own field, while we try to master ours.

This blog post may seem like a rant, but it is the result of my growing dismay when I see people increasingly trivializing someone else’s knowledge and falsely positioning themselves as knowing better.

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