In fact, poke around your corner of the internet and in about.34 seconds you can find someone explaining why money is the problem. Why “experts” are the problem. Why social media is the problem. Why consultants are the problem.
Wrong. Not so. These things aren’t the enemy.
We have met the enemy. And he is us.
Having and making money isn’t evil. Nor is selling things to make money. Nor is using money to buy things.
It’s what people with questionable intentions DO with the money because in quantity it can buy them access, tools, and leverage that the average person will never have. It can fuel things like bribery, extortion, blackmail, drugs.
In the hands of a philanthropist, it can build children’s hospitals, construct fresh water wells in poverty-stricken countries, provide a few holiday gifts for a family that has fallen on hard times.
Money is simply a symbol for the exchange of value, and it can corrupt or it can change things for the better.
We need experts.
I sure as hell hope that my neurosurgeon is a pro. What we object to is the assertion of expertise that becomes arrogance or hubris. And we rarely talk about this, but the people who are really pissed at the “experts” are the ones who would very much like to be seen as experts themselves but are frustrated that others – deservedly so or not – are either self nominating or being recognized by others. Expertise feels better when it’s a title that’s bestowed by others, and we rarely object when it’s bestowed upon us. We just don’t like it when other people call themselves the thing we hope to be.
I’ve been working at my profession for a long time. My client doesn’t want to hire a “student” of the profession or someone who is “still learning”, they want to hire an expert (arguably who continues to learn and be curious but who has a level of accomplishment nonetheless). Companies seek out experts to help them with problems and find solutions. That’s the way it works in the real world. In fact, most every other profession on the planet would look at us internet people quizzically about our objection to such a term.
While I’m not going to go slapping it on my business cards as a moniker – I think it’s horribly vague anyway – you’re damn right I have expertise in some areas, and when it comes to being qualified to do work, I’ll have no problem saying so.
Expertise is what you earn when you work at something. The proof of whether its real lies in the work and legacy you leave behind. The judges of that? The people who hire that expertise and pay for it. No one else.
It’s not the disease.
Social media is inert. The issue is in how social media is used, abused, lauded as the savior or vilified as the cause of brain meltdown that’s at issue. But those are not problems with the media. Those are human problems driven by the imperfect aims of the people behind the keyboard. Those problems are made more visible and sometimes more complex by the velocity and visibility of the web, but the web doesn’t create them. It simply enables them.
But we have the same power in our hands that the idiots and opportunists too, and we can and do create amazing things with it every day. We can choose to blame the tools for the shortcomings of the people behind them, or we can keep working on how they can enable good work and positive change.
We consultants get a bad rap.
The practice of selling knowledge and advice is as old as business itself, but the consulting world has sometimes become a caricature of itself, laden with really bad jargon and PowerPoint decks that say absolutely nothing at all. So they’re easy to throw rocks at (and ask me how much I laugh when people who work in agencies make fun of consultants as if they aren’t in the knowledge exchange business themselves).
The truth is that there are many good consultants out there that provide a tremendous amount of value to the companies they work with. I’ve hired and worked with several.
The bad ones spark more dust ups, more stories around the water cooler, more comic strips and office jokes and blog posts. The good ones are doing hard work somewhere that is often only realized behind the scenes (in fact, many of the best consultants can make it look like they were never really there). But the profession itself? Valuable, useful, and often necessary for the companies who just don’t have the expertise they need in their own house.
The quality and efficacy of someone’s work is where the proof is. And you know who gets to determine the value of their applied expertise and the sale of it to companies as a service? The market and their clients.
Notice a Theme Here?
These things in and of themselves are neutral. On their own, they’re not a whole lot of anything at all.
In the hands of someone with malicious intent or even simply ignorance, they can be ineffective at best and damaging at worst. They can be used to take advantage of people, to sully reputations, to enable nefarious schemes…you name it.
In the hands of someone with the best intentions, however, they can change the world. Truly. They can fund a cause, raise awareness for a compelling message, bring answers to people and businesses that very much needed help and guidance.
Intent is everything, and context matters greatly.
When we wish to solve the ills of the world or even in our corner of the internet, it’s shortsighted to point the blame at the mechanism. We need to look carefully and critically at the human condition that powers those things, that drives them, that uses them for specific purposes. Until discuss why those things are being used the way they are, we’ll be solving the wrong problems.
There’s undoubtedly more. What else do you see in your world that’s the symptom and not the cause? The comments are yours.