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It seems to me that we have more experts around today than at any other time in world history. A day doesn’t pass without some expert appearing on television, radio, newspapers, magazines and/or the internet to proclaim some future occurrence that will dramatically impact our lives. Some of the recent proclamations have caused me to wonder if some, most or all of these experts are nothing more than modern day version of Chicken Little. Consider the following recent events.

Census experts have long predicted that Caucasians in the United States would before a minority race before 2040. Recently that was revised to sometime after 2055.

Twice in the last few years climatologists and hydrologists have predicted it would take 10 years for Lake Lanier to recover from successive droughts. The lake returned to full pool in 18 months following the drought earlier this decade and in the last 6 months has recovered by almost 70% from the most recent drought.

Global warming experts have long predicted that if the West Antarctic ice shelf were to collapse the world oceans would rise by more than 20 feet. Recently, upon further review, the estimates were revised to less than 10 feet. Still bad news for New York City but no beach front property in Atlanta.

The Social Security system and Medicare have had so many expiration dates it is hard to keep track.

How about the CDC and World Health Organization’s recent predictions regarding the great Swine Flu (H1N1 for you pork producers) pandemic?

Finally consider the multiple experts weighing in on the end of the current economic recession. As best I can determine it is scheduled to end sometime between tomorrow and never.

So you’re probably asking “what’s the harm?”

Unfortunately, a large portion of the population looks upon these expert proclamations as fact and then reacts, expending both emotional and actual resources preparing themselves for the sky to fall. Certainly we could find a better investment for these resources.

The second problem is much more insidious. These predictions are much akin to the little boy who cried wolf. Unfortunately someday the wolf is going to be real and we will have had so many false alarms in the past that most will ignore the warning and be totally unprepared for the dire consequences.

So how can you tell “is it real or is it Memorex?” My personal rule of thumb is to automatically eliminate experts who have written a new book, are on the speaking or lecture circuit, whose research is part of a new grant application or in any other way would profit emotionally or physically from their own prediction.

Perhaps as we get older, we get more like Mel Gibson’s character in the 1997 film Conspiracy Theory. Or perhaps we have just experienced more experts who aren’t.

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Comment by Paul Terlemezian on May 17, 2009 at 10:18pm
Pat, great answer!
Comment by Patrick Malone on May 17, 2009 at 10:46am
Paul, as usual great questions. Let me first try to answer your 4 questions and then one suggestion with 3 examples for small training, consulting or technology companies trying to grow their business.

1. Yes, quit trying to be recognized as an expert. Most real experts are totally focused on increasing their own expertise. The continual learning passion prohibits then from seeing themselves as experts. Let others proclaim you an expert.

2. No, you can and should profit from your expertise but that profit is only sustainable and scaleable when it is the consequence of helping others profit.

3 & 4. No & No. Real experts don't need to prove anything. The people who they help with their expertise are all the proof that is needed and they are seen as a much more credibile source.

From my perspective, it isn't the "chicken and egg" dilemma. Small companies who are seeking to grow, regardless of their industry, need to GO FIRST. Don't confuse this with the "me first" attitude that has permeated much of our business environment over the last few years. GO FIRST means:
-- if you want to be seen as interesting, you need to be interested first,
-- if you want to be understood, you need to understand first,
-- if you want to be respected, you need to respect first.

The most effective leaders are first effective followers.
Comment by Paul Terlemezian on May 16, 2009 at 1:29pm
Pat, you've given us a good rule of thumbe for who to eliminate. Who should we not eliminate? As owners of training and consulting companies that seek to grow their revenues and perhaps desire to be perceived as experts - what do you recommend we do?

Should we give up seeking being recognized as an expert?
Can we only be perceived as an expert in areas that we do not profit from?
Do we need to prove that our profits come from our expertise?
Do we need to prove that our expertise comes from our profits?

Is it a "chicken and egg" thing? What's a small training, consulting or technology company to do?

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