07 Mar How Do You Build Expertise?
Experts and Expertise
We’ve all heard the term “expert” used to emphasize a person or entity’s command of a given subject or situation. An expert opinion. An expert consultant. An expert witness. “Expert” refers to a person who possesses an unmatched proficiency in a certain area. “Expertise” relates to the specific skill or knowledge that person has. It might be in writing, coding, history, science, medicine or a myriad of other niches that set the expert apart as the person who knows the most— and can report the most lessons learned— about that topic.
And If expertise is a skill, it can clearly be developed. Strategically honed expertise enhances the mastery of the expert themself, eventually radiating outward to every level of the organization or endeavor they support.
Developing Expertise in the Workplace
In the workplace, expertise is what sets exceptional employees apart. In a given department or silo, there’s often a hierarchical framework that creates a chain of expertise, with the department leader or c-suite member with the most expertise sitting closest to the top.
Developing expertise at every level is what sets exceptional organizations apart. Instead of one overextended expert or leader, strategic businesses create a network of learners who can apply their expertise to their own work, the work of others, and the overall success of the company.
Catalyst creates a powerful infrastructure of learning paths that supports the many intersections of expertise.
The Craftsman Mindset: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”
Cal Newport’s controversial-yet-illuminating book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” debunks the popular belief that following one’s passion is the surest way to succeed. He breaks down what’s called the ‘Craftsman Mindset,” a chain of career development progression that unfolds as follows: (1) career capital is developed through deep work and deliberate practice; (2) employees use this career capital to acquire valuable and deserving traits, such as autonomy, control, and mission; and (3) as an outgrowth of this progression, employees become passionate about the company mission, finding ways to expand it in new and intentional ways.
The Craftsman Mindset asserts that just about anyone can become passionate about their profession, as long as their own personal development is tied to overarching outcomes and day-to-day goals. When coupled with the concept of building expertise, The Craftsman Mindset is a crucial tool for understanding what drives individual learners in the organization. If passion can be created through learning, then the development of expertise is the most direct way for both employees and businesses to experience growth.
Domain Expertise: A Shift From Lifelong Learning
“Domain Knowledge” is proficiency in a certain industry, including the understanding of its dynamics, sectors, history, competitors, customers, business model and strategies. In order to become an expert, or to build expertise, deep domain knowledge is necessary. However, simply because someone possesses domain knowledge does not mean they are, in fact, an expert. One of the key initiatives of organizational learning is to move away from domain knowledge into domain expertise.
For many years, and still in many cases, Lifelong Learning has served as a pivotal aspiration for learners of all ages: the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.” While it’s a wholesome and positive learning goal, Lifelong Learning leaves little room for the Craftsman Mindset of developing expertise into passion. Lifelong Learning assumes the passion was there all along. It suggests that honing one’s pre-established domain will keep them relevant in the workplace.
But, as we’ve learned above, the experts are the most utilized members of the workforce.
Building Expertise Through Deliberate Practice and Reflection
Through deliberate practice and reflection, expertise development takes concepts like motivation, attitude and trepidation and encourages employees to factor their own perspective and experience into learning. They ruminate on how the learning applies to their professional growth, and apply its takeaways to enhance individual performance and their work within the organization. This process cultivates a culture of learning in the workplace.
Self reflection and assessment (usually in the form of a quiz or survey) provide a powerful collection of data that can be captured to form a spectrum of learning analytics, illuminating any gaps in the overall process and shining light on areas that need further refinement. This clearer, brighter picture of organizational learning prepares employees of all levels to apply their expertise in the most effective and rewarding ways.
Self-Regulated Learning: The Path to Organizational Success
The most productive path to building expertise is lined with self-regulated learners. These learners are successful because they control their own learning environment. From knowing their domain, to honing their craft, and eventually using reflection and practice to fine tune the takeaways that prepare them for professional growth, employees who engage in self-regulated learning are perfectly positioned to streamline organizational success.
Catalyst’s Learning Paths provide a sustainable environment for developing expertise through self-regulated learning. Stay tuned for an in-depth blog on how these Learning Paths shift organizational learning from episodic to continuous.