Can anybody become an expert?

“Everyone is an expert” – Seth Godin

HSBC 2017

A lot of people want to be regarded as experts in their fields but don’t know where to start. They believe that they don’t know enough to call themselves experts, so they hold back. Big mistake!

One’s expertise is an area that is highly underrated by most people. This is because the ability comes so naturally that you may start to mistake that ease for lack of knowledge and ability.

There are four stages in the development of any skill or ability as set out in the “conscious competency model”.

Before you start to pursue knowledge or ability in an area or expertise, you are unconsciously incompetent – you don’t know what you don’t know. You lack knowledge and skills in a particular subject area, but are blissfully unaware of the fact that you lack this knowledge.

Then you become conscious of what you don’t know. This stage is called conscious incompetence. You know your limitations and are aware that you lack knowledge and expertise in a particular field.

The next phase is where you become consciously competent because you have applied yourself and have become good at your chosen skill. It takes time to develop this type of competence. Even with this level of competency, there is still a lot that you’ll be ignorant of, simply because your focus is now on increasing the depth of knowledge rather than breadth.

The fourth stage is where you become so competent that you are unconscious of it: unconscious competence. At this stage, what you do comes so naturally to you that you don’t think about what you are doing. You now run the risk of disregarding your ability, experience and skills simply because you do what you do so effortlessly. You begin to think that everybody can do what you do and don’t regard it as a competency, an expertise that people might pay for.

There is a fifth stage, the “guru” stage, where people have attained such a high level of expertise that they can break down their knowledge for other people to follow. They know they are experts and are happy to be seen as such.

Most people get stuck at the fourth stage, unconsciously competent, although they are just as competent as the next expert.

Everyone is unconsciously competent at something. You may not realize how competent you are because it comes so easily to you. When you are unconsciously competent in an area, you have developed so much skill in that one area that it’s now second nature to you; hence, you discount the value of that skill to others. Your natural competency could be in areas of sports, time management, organization, implementation, design, etc. This is the most common reason why people do not regard themselves as experts, and thus they lose out on the opportunity to leverage this expertise to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. Being an expert enables you to differentiate yourself from others and position you and your business at a higher price point than others.

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