We all look for the “authority” on a certain subject to affirm, deny, change or enlighten our own thoughts because we believe them to be the expert. So what constitutes an “expert”?
The Oxford dictionary defines the word “expert” as ”a person who is very knowledgeable about, or skillful in, a particular area.” This is clearly a subjective definition with the emphasis on the word, “very.” How does one measure, “very?”
What is “Expert Opinion?”
The word “expert” comes from the Latin word expertus, past participle of experiri ‘try.’ It came into use as a noun in the early 19th century.
The Senior Partners at Mussio La Grassa Elliott Krogh prefer a less subjective definition: “a person with proven and applied knowledge, ability, skill and/or talent supported by experience and/or academic work and testing.” MLEK’s definition requires an expert to have demonstrated and applied his or her level of expertise.
MLEK Senior Partners are experts by both definitions. We stand by our advice and opinion and applaud our clients for asking questions and doing their due diligence before applying our recommendations. It is the responsible thing to do.
What is even more important in business and government is the ability to discern the difference between “opinion” and “fact.” And do we really want to? When we like or agree with what an expert says we choose to believe that it is true. If we don’t like or agree with what an expert says we choose to question what has been said. This is the default pattern for most of us in our personal and professional lives.
What this tells us is that ideas are popularized and in some cases cross-over into literature, culture, business practices and accepted behaviour as truths without ever being tested – but simply agreed-to. Let’s examine the long-standing case of Adam Smith, 18th century author of The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations. His expert opinion on economics perpetuated the belief and acceptance that self interest by those who owned companies is in everyone’s best interest. This opinion was, and is, valued by economists and countries.
The worldwide global economic crisis has taught us that this is not a fact – merely fiction – that we agreed-to and adopted as fact. The caveat to Smith’s expert opinion is that history has shown us that leaders driven solely by individual ambition rarely serve the common good. It is ambitious leaders who exercise good business practices and ethics who do.
The value is not only in the expert opinion – but in how it’s applied.