We are all experts

We are all experts. We are capable of making mistakes even on our chosen field of expertise. We know more about the future of others than their past or present. We have all the answers provided you ask the right question. We are not keen listeners. We don't listen when someone explains to us. We are not lazy. You can see our enthusiasm at the question hour. We are good decoration pieces. We look good at the vases. We are expensive to maintain. Our mutation rate is quite high. That is why we are taken for a fixed period. We are available in plenty. Those experts who constitute expert committees believe wisdom comes only with age. Thus, 60+ is an ideal age to become an expert. Retired people are preferred, as they create less fuss regarding fixing of dates for the meetings. Moreover, having them as members is a way to resolve another problem, the problem of quorum. They are the best ‘fillers’ at the time of emergency. More flexible an expert is more sought after he is as a committee member. We are ‘experts’ in concluding that 'this can’t be done', and also in explaining why this can’t be done. At the smallest pretext, we reject proposals. We look forward to such opportunities. We love to use riders while accepting a proposal. We are good at pushing proposals to the future. One good thing about us is that we don’t think too much. We know that we are advisors, not implementers. We know that our report will not be read, so why bother.

Fred Allen remarked, “A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.” C Northcote Parkison likened a committee to a plant. Perhaps that’s why experts are sometimes planted in the committee as watchdogs. Their only work is to help the committees to achieve their mandated objectives.

Few important lessons: (i) An expert is a person who avoids small errors while sweeps on to the grand fallacy, (ii) “If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock”, (iii) If you see a snake, just kill it, rather than appointing a committee on snakes, (iv) “Some experts have no differential abilities from the rest of the population, but for some reasons, and their empirical records, are believed to be experts. They dress up their expertise in beautiful language, jargon, mathematics and often wear expensive suits”.

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh