Because of some talks I’m giving, I’ve been thinking about how to put the concrete effects the change in expertise has for the authority of business. I want to say that in the old days, we took expertise and authority as the last word about a topic. Increasingly, the value of expertise and authority is as the first word — the word that frames and initiates the discussion.
I realize that this sounds better than it thinks, so to speak. But there are some aspects of it that I like. 1 I do think that we are moving away in some areas from thinking that we have to settle issues; we are finding much value in the unsettling of ideas, for that allows for more nuance, more complexity, and more recognition that our ability to know our world is quite limited. 2 And I do think that there is a type of expertise that has value as the first word — think about some of your favorite bloggers who throw an idea out into the world so the world can plumb it for meaning, veracity, and relevance. 3 Finally, I do think that insisting on having the last word — and thus closing the conversation — often will be seen as counter-productive and arrogant.
Unfortunately, that maps imperfectly to the snappy aphorism that expertise is moving from having the last word to being the first word.