We’re all experts on everything. Don’t think so? Go to any middle school or high school soccer game and you’ll be amazed at how many parents are suddenly experts on soccer. It’s also amazing at how many parents are parents of future NCAA Division I scholarship soccer players.
Seriously though, we’re all guilty of this from time to time. I’ve done it and if you’re honest, you’ll admit you’ve done it.
Yesterday the world suffered a loss, the near destruction of Notre Dame. Early during the fire our President tweeted:
“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
As many have pointed out, this was actually a terrible idea. The idea of dropping 100s of kilograms of water onto an already collapsing roof is most likely to do more damage than not. But, while I think it’s easy to mock the President for his tweet, I won’t. In some ways it reminds me of the various suggestions that were made last summer during the Thai Cave Rescue. We all want to help and often will blurt out the first idea that comes to mind. I think it’s human nature to want to help.
But, here’s the thing: there really are experts in the field (or to use a term I see in my industry that I dislike at times: SME (it just sounds bad) Subject Matter Expert.)
And sometimes, being a SME does allow you to have some knowledge into other domains and you can give some useful insight. But, one thing I’ve found is that no matter how much I know on any subject, there’s probably someone who knows more. I’ve written about plane crashes and believe I have a more than passing familiarity in the area. Perhaps a lot more than the average person. But, there’s still a lot I don’t know and if I were asked to comment by a news organization on a recent plane crash, I’d probably demur to people with far more experience than I have.
Having done construction (from concrete work in basements to putting the cap of a roof on), I again, have more than a passing familiarity with construction techniques and how fire can have an impact. That said, I’ll leave the real building and fire fighting techniques to the experts.
And I will add another note: even experts can disagree at times. Whether it’s attending a SQL Saturday or the PASS Conference itself, or sitting in a room with my fellow cave rescue instructors, it can be quite enlightening to see the different takes people will have on a particular question. Often no one is wrong, but they bring different knowledge to the table or different experiences.
And finally, you know what, sometimes the non-expert CAN see the problem, or a solution in a way that an expert can’t. But that said, at the end of the day, I’ll tend to trust the experts.
And that’s the truth because I’m an expert on punditry.
You might not like it, but “SME” is a widespread and well-worn term in technical writing circles.
Oh I know. But I don’t like the way it sounds. 🙂