The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

The Expert Myth

"Experts in their tower"
Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig
(Creative Commons)
In Community Development work, as in other fields, there can sometimes be an over-reliance on experts.  They come in various guises: community health expert, education expert, city planning expert, even the community development expert.

In each case, the expert may have some useful expertise to offer, but that does not make them the best decision-maker in any community setting.  Indeed, an expert in a decision-making role can be disastrous.

A 2006 study found that the more power an individual has, or claims to have, then the more likely they are to over-value their own viewpoint and are less capable of considering another persons perspective1.  The same researcher, in 2012, noted that those with a sense of power were often over-confident in their decision-making2.

Remember too, that becoming an expert in a subject usually involves knowing more and more about a topic that is more and more specialised.  In short: knowing more and more about less and less.
Our world is a complex, inter-connected, diverse one.  We, and it, contain contradictions, anomalies and inconsistencies.  In such a world our decision-making processes must ensure that a wide variety of perspectives and ideas are taken into account.  The expert has a place in that, but only one place of many.

It is of little benefit if a decision made by an expert is the right one in their view, if it does not make sense to those on whom the decision is imposed.

Look around the world.  Often, where we see conflict, bitterness or hatred, we will also find that a decision has been imposed by someone (or a group) who have done so in the belief that theirs was the correct one to make.  That applies just as much to a local neighbourhood as it does to international conflict.

So, beware the expert, but do not ignore the expert.  They can have useful information or knowledge, but it does not make them the best decision-maker.

1.  Adam Galinsky et al.  Power and perspectives not taken, Psychological Science, 2006.
2.  Adam Galinsky et al.  Power and Overconfident decision making, Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Making Processes, March 2012.

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