If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck well then it must be …. Not always! During my 25 years in training and development I have seen a great number of “elite” programs come and go. I have seen “experts” in their field give absolutely terrible workshops, and time and time again I have seen companies who want to pay the minimum to get the maximum in terms of knowledge transfer, retention and results. How many times have we bowed to expert opinion only to learn later that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to hang on their every word like lemmings?
The word expert has many different connotations to different people. Experts, when I was young were elders who had life experience. Then I grew to learn that experts possessed specialized knowledge on certain subjects such as teachers. Now, I am a little confused as to what criteria is used to anoint experts, because there are so many of them out there. When faced with such a dilemma I head to the dictionary and Wikipedia, figuring the answer lies somewhere between. An expert can be anything from a reliable source, a person with extensive knowledge and training, may have credentials through education and practice, a sage thinker or someone who has more knowledge than an average person. The key attribute that runs through all definitions is they must be recognized by peers and have proven authority.
The last test is the truest in my opinion. How would an expert prove that they are an expert? Testimonials would be a good start. Letters from clients, peers and other experts stating that there are valid reasons why this person should be given your ear. This goes back to my question about who checks anyways. In training and development situations whether it be sales, leadership, teamwork or other forms of workshops and activities, the person responsible for sourcing the trainer needs to be diligent in finding a person with the knowledge, skills and experience to properly facilitate the training. This is accomplished through checking of credentials. You wouldn’t hire an employee without a background check.
There are billions of people on the planet who are self-proclaimed experts at something (I can hang a spoon from my nose!) Each day I see more examples of people with expert credentials that may or may not fit the definition. Who heard of hoarding even 5 years ago, yet there are experts at dealing with the problem. Anyone who uses social media seems to be an expert, but I defy them to stand toe to toe with the likes of Chris Brogan. Even website optimization has thousands of experts ready to make your site number one! (64,900,000 hits on Google) A quick check of the “expert’s” background, experience and testimonials will give you a good idea if they are experts or merely more knowledgeable than the average person.
I was once told that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Now that certainly isn’t always the case, as many experts may have very reasonable fees. In my experience with organizations, some are truly motivated to train and understand the cost benefit relationship, and others train for the sake of training at the lowest cost, then argue that the impact was negligible or unmeasurable, and don’t venture into the human capital development field for many years. It is relatively simple for those that want results. Check credentials, meet with the facilitator to discuss desired outcomes and be reasonable in your cost/result expectations. It might look like fantastic training, sound like fantastic training, but if you don’t check you might be “ducked”