“A Star is Made” is one of the most widely read and reread Freakonomics columns in The New York Times. It was published on May 7, 2006, by authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, and I still refer to it when I’m writing about experts.
The gist of the article is that:
“The trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect.”
Experts are made, not born. Let’s explore how you can become the expert.
To begin, let’s look at the sea of change that knowledge has gone through in the last 20 years. According to Joe DiDonato, Elearning! Media Group Editor-at-Large:
- Technology renews itself every 12-18 months.
- There are 3,000 books published every day.
- The amount of new technical data is doubling every year.
That means that the shelf life of knowledge in every area is changing so rapidly that no one person can be The Expert anymore. Years ago, when there was far less knowledge and information available, you could study, continue studying, then study some more, and become an expert.
Today, it’s more about learning, forgetting, and relearning. The person on the team who can find, access and curate knowledge and information as quickly as possible can become the expert.
The Freakonomics authors base their article on a study done by Anders Ericsson, Psychology Professor at Florida State University. He talks about an idea he calls “Deliberate Practice.”
Becoming an expert entails deliberate practice. Lots of it. And it involves much more than just repetition. Deliberate practice requires three key elements:
- Setting specific goals
- Obtaining immediate feedback
- Concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
An Industry-Leading, Expert Blog
Let’s translate that into how to become an expert in your area of business. First, you need to set a specific goal that relates to your establishing expertise. Try this one: Write an authority blog post of at least 500 words on your company’s website every day for one month. Then see what kind of feedback you get in terms of numbers of readers, comments, and social shares to see how you stack up against other “experts.”
Focus on making each post better than the previous one. Focus on your writing technique, editing, using graphics and block quotes, and finding great sources other than yourself. It may seem counterintuitive, but curating and referencing the work of others is one of the best ways to make your writing more credible and actually establish yourself as an expert.
At the end of the 30 days, you will start looking like an expert in your field.
The value of being perceived as the expert in this flat world is incalculable. There are literally millions of minds out there looking for expert advice on the widest range of topics imaginable. And a successful, authoritative blog on your industry is one of the best ways for you to stand out as an expert.
David Grebow is a freelance business journalist who writes for Vistaprint, a global leader in marketing products and services for small businesses. David is a writer, editor, and author of many books, including “A Compass for the Knowledge Economy.” He holds an MBA from Harvard, and his work has been published in Harvard Business Review and The Economist.