I have never purported to be an an expert. I have some skills and some knowledge, but my greatest asset is my network.
“What the Internet Time Alliance group brought to the table in our engagement, in the person of Harold Jarche, was not only his extensive experience and network, but also the expertise of the rest of the Alliance and their networks as well. While we in our organization have networks of our own, the quality and extensiveness of the ITA network added a value that we would not have been able to tap alone, and led us to a superior solution that will better serve our customers.” — Corporate University Manager within Fortune 500 Health Insurance company
Hierarchies and experts have a symbiotic relationship. But individual expertise, in a single field, is gradually being replaced by collaborative expertise. The expertise in any given field developed as a result of the Enlightenment is insufficient to deal with the wicked challenges of the Entanglement.
The network era is subverting the hierarchies of markets and institutions. Direction emerges from our networks, but slowly and indirectly. Only by engaging our networks can we learn from them. As professionals in the network era, not engaging in communities and networks leaves us at a significant disadvantage. When work is learning, and learning is the work, personal knowledge mastery becomes a core skill.
A recent research paper — Orthodoxy, illusio, and playing the scientific game — looked at why it took so long for the mainstream medical community to accept that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is predominantly spread as an aerosol and not through surface transmissions. Experts in medical infection control ignored knowledge from outside their narrow sub-field — “Aerosol scientists—typically, chemists, and engineers—representing the heterodoxy were systematically excluded from key decision-making networks and committees.”
The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the mind of an expert, is getting the old idea out.
“Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. And our process of creation is very different … As we are becoming more entangled with our technologies, we are also becoming more entangled with each other. The power (physical, political, and social) has shifted from comprehensible hierarchies to less-intelligible networks.” —… Long Live the Entanglement
One expert is merely a node in a network. We need to engage and create subject matter networks, with expertise in a wide variety of disciplines. It is also worth noting this advice from Valdis Krebs, “All experts are part of one or more sub-networks in larger networks… and these sub-networks may/do not always agree with each other.” Sensemaking in an entangled world is hard work.
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