Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing

Does access to all kinds of information and knowledge at our fingertips really make experts of us all? Will Mooney, Carter Jonas partner and head of its commercial agency and professional services in the eastern region, still values expert advice.

Computer coding becomes part of the National Curriculum in September this year and not before time really as the ability to code will be another pillar of education basics alongside the established three Rs for a numerate and literate society as we make our way in the 21st Century. Already, many primary schools run after-school coding clubs with the assistance of code-literate parents under the supervision of school’s own ICT staff.

While my heart lifts at coding’s inclusion in the curriculum, the same heart sinks a little at hearing of a training business which aims to teach executives to code in a day. It sinks in the same way as those of GPs when patients come to their surgeries with symptoms and diagnoses they’ve been researching on the Internet.

Okay, may be the course doesn’t promise to make the executive a coding expert in a day and it is laudable that knowing how to code is a vital business skill coding is being acknowledged, but there are no guarantees that senior and middle ranking execs – whose expertise is very much not in the nuts and bolts of coding - who leave that course won’t think they know enough in a day to pronounce an opinion on the matter and make business decisions based on a course which has cost a lot of money. As the saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and especially so in the minds of hands-on company executives.

It could also be seen as quite insulting to people who have coding expertise which has been gained after years of study and practice. A coding course does sound sexy in the way that chartered accountancy or company law in a day doesn’t. Both are crucial to the running of a company but it’s hard to imagine a day’s course attracting interest from the time-pressed modern exec.

Sending shudders through residential property peers will be news of the alliance between the founders of Poundland and who are coming together in the form of to cut out the middlemen estate agents when it comes to housebuying and selling. Good luck with that in a housebuying chain of more than one.

It seems that with access to all kinds of expert knowledge and information at the touch of a button or the swishing of fingertips across a screen, we like to think we do or can know-it-all. It is almost as if there is no respect for true experts who have studied and practised in their particular field for years and can give advice based on that expertise.

Aptitude and application aren’t as valued as they used to be or as treasured as they should be and we view experts with a degree of suspicion more than we used to.

While there has always been a counterpoint to most expert opinion, we don’t have to shift ourselves to go and find it these days in the way we did pre-Internet access. A world wide web of contra-opinion to those of the expert with whom we think we disagree or whose opinion we don’t want to hear is laid bare before us to access instantly – as long as there’s Wi-fi connection, of course.

In the dynamic of the client-advisor business relationship, you will often find that clients don’t like what expert advisors have to say to them because it is not what they want to hear. While they don’t have to like it, it is important that they respect it. Equally, the adviser needs to respect the client’s decision to ignore the advice or seek that of another expert which may better suit the client’s own view.

Calling yourself an expert can be as easy or as hard as you like to make it in the modern age, depending on your level of integrity. But that’s just IMHO, of course!

Will Mooney MRICS

Commercial, Cambridge

No comments: