Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Eagle Butte

At the Heart of It: The expert doesn’t dabble, or does she? 

Accountability issues call into question the validity of experts. On the one hand, we accept what experts tell us. 

For example, if you have an issue with the law, you hire a lawyer who is an expert in the area of law your case challenges. If your electrical outlet sparks, you call an electrician. If you need a paper reviewed, you call your English teacher. 

On the flip side, our society is as notorious for ridiculing the experts as we are for calling upon them in times of need. 

Lawyers are often characterized as greedy and manipulative and teachers as just “there for the check.” Blue-collar workers are often cast as males who are crass and inappropriate. 

What we attribute to certain professions may be based on how those professions have been presented in the media. Other times, perceptions are built from personal experience, or experiences shared by family and friends. 

We often get caught up in two minds about the people in a particular profession: they are individually good and needed; or they are universally awful. 

I propose that one reason we tend to allow the negative perspective to win over our perspectives, such as thinking teachers are only at a school to collect a check, is because we are too lazy to discover the real problem. Why is it that some teachers do not stay after school? Is it really because they do not care?

Perhaps the answers are not as simple or as negative as we may think. 

Often, a person has dabbled in a job or experience — maybe she substituted for teachers a few times and saw other teachers come in and leave work on time when students needed help after school. We may have figured they did not care for the students since they did not stay after school and work longer hours to help those students. 

This dabbling, either through a personal experience, or vicariously, does not make us experts in that experience. 

However, if we did not dabble in different experiences or listen to the stories of others, we would have even less background knowledge to determine the reasons and come up with solutions for the perceived problem. 

Sometimes, a dabble will not do. Sometimes, dabbling should be taken for just that — exposure to something new. The more exposure we have, the better we understand the experience. 

But with that experience, we also need to be open to the possibility that there are still many things we do not know or understand about the subject or job, and that there are experts who may know better.

Dabbling then, does not make us experts, but it helps us understand the experts better when we go to them. If I know a little about the heating element repair from the YouTube video instructions when I call someone to do it, I have a better idea of what should be repaired and how much it should cost, making it easier for me to hold the repairman accountable for the job and prevent being ripped off. 

I do not know enough though, to tell the man how to do his job. Instead, I can ask questions and be present to help myself better understand it. 

Dabbling, I think is a smart thing to do. Get a wide variety of experiences and talk to a wide variety of people so that you know a little about a lot. 

However, we must learn how to accept that we may not know it all, and that sometimes knowing a little is not enough to be the judge and jury of those who clearly know more than we do.  

In the book, “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind” by Srini Pillay, M.D., he writes that great minds question a thing or situation. They “tinker with their hunches” and when something is not working, it could be because whoever is trying to fix it or change it — the expert — is simply tired of working on it. 

Sometimes “not knowing” helps us see possibilities that “knowing” prevents us from seeing, and as experts, we get too tired to think of the situation in a new and different way. 

Experts need dabblers to provide a different perspective, and dabblers need experts for the same reason. 

Rather than tearing each other down, claiming one or the other is pompous or an idiot, we might swallow pride and work together to make the world a better place.