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Monday, June 08, 2009

Expert Level Answers via Social Networks

I've been really enjoying the discussion around Does Deliberative Practice Lead to Quick Proficiency?  One of the interesting points raised via the discussion:

If you can get an expert level answer by asking for help through
social networks how does that compare to being an expert?

I regularly use LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers.  I will have conversations with people who are experts in their area and get their answers and even ask them about other answers I'm getting.  I just did this to get help with an upcoming presentation about the use of Web 2.0 Tools inside insurance companies with fantastic results.  Granted you need a base level of knowledge to understand what you are getting, but you certainly don't need to be a true  expert.

Side note: Are you reading this and not currently linked to me on LinkedIn – please read: My LinkedIn Connection Approach.

Now consider how we Evaluate the Performance of Concept Workers by looking at signals such as:

  • Process - They went through a reasonable process to arrive at their conclusions.
  • Reasonable - Their conclusions are reasonable in your opinion (if you can formulate one).
  • Compare - If you took what they did and compared it to what you would expect from other similar performers, would they have arrived at the same result.

This raises the question:

By going to outside experts with the appropriate base knowledge
doesn't that constitute a good answer based on this criteria?

In fact, Sue Waters said in a comment that being a Connector (well connected and knowing how to leverage those connections) is really what it's all about:

I don't need to know the answers because my personal learning network is so extensive, and extremely diverse, that I know who can help me with the answer. This also means I can normally get them answered before most people can. Which means people also turn to me because they know 1) I will help them find the answer 2) they know I will be able to find it quickly.

Sue does caution us:

It is a huge danger that people are confusing online presence with being an expert.

The other danger is to take online information at face value without questioning if the information is true.

I would point out that the first danger is akin to the danger of confusing confidence with expertise.  That happens all the time and is made even harder by the fact that confidence level about answers is inversely proportional to expertise (see Vic's comment in Social Media Conversations).  Similarly, just because you find someone everywhere online doesn't mean they are an expert.  And certainly, you can't just talk to one person or read one blog post and assume you have an answer to anything.  It's always more complex than that. 

I believe there's really something here in terms of Leveraging Networks is Key Skill that allows us to get expert level answers via social networks.  This is the most important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap.  And it makes a lot of the discussion around Network Feedback, Using Social Media to Find Answers to Questions, Learning through Conversation very important topics.

I welcome your thoughts.

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