Is expertise a good thing?

Thoughts from the belly of the whale…

Andrew Gibson
3 min readOct 8, 2023

I want to say yes. I like people and some people are experts. Expertise is often hard won. Therefore it must have some value. Right?

Back when I lived in Texas, anti-establishment sentiment underpinned much of the established cultural identity. But, counterculture held up established expertise as a potent virtue.

Does that cancel out?

If there’s expertise to react against, does the good of expertise really outweigh the hatred it engenders?

Of course it does. It must do. Surely?

But our theories come and go. The wisdom of today is tomorrow’s folly.

Insource my outsourced departments. Repatriate my cloud-transformed servers. Stubbornly resist changes to the idea of agility. Codify the methods of continuous improvement. Define another taxonomy. Protect your mental model.

Know what is and know what is not.

Defend the truth.

Forget why it mattered in the first place.

So Alan Kay picked a fight with Eric Evans and Ron Jeffries refereed.

But neither of them won…. McKinsey won. The servant leaders won. The fifth discipline made us all whole again. Now, we’re all about teams. Experts!? Who needs them?


Maybe we could be a team of experts?

I love experts. Listening to them is like listening to a symphony. I have little understanding of its structure. I miss the details, the filagree, I don’t grok the sonic mathematics. But the sound of it washes over me. I ride the wave and let it guide me toward the horizon.

And, there’s something there. Something on the horizon reaches out and catches me. Before the swell collapses, the next context swims into focus. The next island of something bigger than I can know emerges for me to land on.

Part of my job depends on me being an expert. People expect it of me. I’m expected to know more than others. At least about the things they need. I’m their answer. I deliver expertise they need to get where they need to go. I have to be an expert. But what is an expert who doesn’t want to advocate for a truth?

There are those who say it’s all about listening. Reflecting. Replaying, filtering, summarising, weaving a coherent whole. Expert listeners. Human mirrors. Melting pots for your mind.


But if I’m an expert who doesn’t want to defend anything, doesn’t want to argue, doesn’t want to specialise, doesn’t want to be in the know… then what am I?

If I want to be part of the conversation, but don’t want my role to be pre-defined? If I don’t want to promote rules. Or best practices. Or delineated techniques?

If I just love being a part of the glorious mix, the techno-social soup; if I don’t want to win… what the hell does that make me?

I don't know what the answer is. I'm stuck. I kind of want to give up.

I don’t think I want to be an expert any more.



Andrew Gibson

Business and technology in the software engineering space