8 Ways to Save Yourself from the Curse of the Expert

#8 in the ‘8 ways to save yourself from…’ series

Experts are fabulous and we need them to inspire, engage and help us to design and deliver the right learning at the right time. However, there is a curse of expertise. Experts know too much and often struggle to remember what it was like when they were at the start of their careers or learning journeys. They make assumptions about how much we know and the good ones are so enthusiastic they want to tell you everything at once.

So how can you work with experts to deliver great sessions without them taking over and blinding everyone with their knowledge.

1. Pair up experts with learning design specialists (of course another sort of expert) and work together to design a programme at the right level for the learners. Work with both types of expertise to achieve the right balance of knowledge, practice, reflection, questions etc.

2. If you’re working with an expert and they have a tendency to overrun, contract with them before you start about how much time you’ll have and they’ll have. Give them a timer and warn them as their time starts to run out. When you work together on the design they are less inclined to take over so involve them from the start.

3. If you’re the expert yourself ask the learners what they already know before you start so that you know where their current levels are. Don’t assume you know.

4. Rather than ask experts to talk for the entire session e.g an hour, ask them to deliver 5 key facts or an illustrative story and then set up a Q&A session. But remember to give the learners a break between the ‘information’ and asking questions so they have time to process what they’ve heard. Better still pair them up or work in 3s to identify good questions to ask the expert.

5. Teach your experts something about the principles of brain friendly learning so they recognise that people can’t learn everything in one day. Most experts are good learners and are often keen to learn something new themselves. They usually value finding out a bit more about how ‘learning’ works.

6. A technique that works well is to ask the expert how long it took them to learn their subject so well. When they say ’20 years’ you can politely point out that this group may have only 20 hours and you don’t believe that they are geniuses. Experts often don’t realise how much they know and it can help them to recognise the length of time they’ve been learning.

7. Ask them to focus on the ‘The top 5 keys’ or ‘The 10 things people must know’. Give them a fixed number of facts/ skills to aim for so that they can quantify their own knowledge and identify the building blocks or keys.

8. Ask your experts to demonstrate and talk through what they are doing rather than just talk about it. Even for an expert it can slow them down when they are having to do 2 tasks at once and it gives everyone else time to keep up.

There are lots of great ways of working collaboratively and using experts as resources. Join us at How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer to design and develop your own brain friendly sessions.