There appear to be several television shows that are based on the premise that there is some man that is so much an expert that people don’t believe his advice and, so, he pretends to be a psychic. While people are sceptical of psychics, they’re apparently more receptive to the expert’s pronouncements than they would be if the information merely came from an expert. Additionally, this plot device sometimes comes up in an episode in other television shows, as well. Thus, I wonder if we can learn something from this premise.

Expert Versus Non-Expert: The Ongoing Duel
Experts sometimes have problems getting their information accepted by people who aren’t experts. The non-experts sometimes have preconceived notions about how things are supposed to be. For example, some of you have members of your upper management who think that buying laboratory software is easy — that it’s easy to install and that there’s little work to get it operational. You might have been hired into your company as the expert in this and they still don’t believe you when you tell them that, based on your multitudes of experience, that this is going to require a lot of time and money to achieve. Or, you might be the consultant who can’t convince your customer than they do actually need a project manager — that the project will be complex-enough to warrant this.

I hear this complaint from experts all over the world, both employees and outside consultants. I’ve run into this problem, myself. Over-and-over, I hear the words, “Why did they hire/contract me to be the expert if they’re not going to listen to me?!” Why, indeed.

Outlining the Problem
First of all, it’s human nature that, once we get some belief ingrained in our head, that it’s not necessarily easy to change it. Multitudes of data can be presented to us and, if we hold a belief strongly enough, we still won’t necessarily change our minds. The problem the expert faces is that convincing people is not as easy as providing the facts. It requires some amount of people skills and understanding of the human condition. This can be rather unfortunate for those of us who are more technically oriented as we tend to like facts and not all the things you have to do to get your facts accepted. It becomes even harder to do in situations where it’s not something that’s always true. If you have a situation where you advise that it’s almost always the case that something is true, the listener sometimes thinks they will be in that tiny and unlikely margin of people who can escape whatever grim fact you’re presenting.

One more thing that I hate to mention as it’s just so unlikely to be true is this: the non-experts sometimes complain that the reason they don’t understand the experts is that experts can be extremely arrogant and impatient with them when trying to impart wisdom. Now, we know this CAN’T POSSIBLY be true, but let me just mention it as food for thought.   😉

Who Bears the Burden?
While there is always a burden on the listener to be paying attention and to try to understand what the experts are telling them, we have to admit that the “teller” of the information also has a burden in the effort to impart the information. But we have to ask ourselves how much of that burden we bear? Personally, I’d say that I strongly feel the weight of both sides of this issue. On one hand, knowing that the non-experts won’t always understand or accept what I’m telling them, I know that, as the expert, I bear a heavy burden to do whatever I can to present the information in multiple ways in an effort to help them understand me. On the other hand, I can’t actually make anyone do anything. I can’t force a customer to do something if they tell me that they point-blank refuse to do it.

So, the question is, how far do I go to convince them? Do I go to the ridiculous extreme of pretending to be a psychic to get them to believe me? Would this even work? For one, the non-experts we deal with are probably not that likely to believe the psychic angle. For another reason, television expert psychics are always men, so this might not even work for me in a make-believe scenario. And then, could I even pretend to be quite eccentric-enough to make any of this plausible to the extremely gullible people out there? I doubt I could become that good at acting.

The Bottom Line

As frustrated as you might be as an expert and as appealing as the psychic expert idea might be, it all comes back to the same issue that, if it weren’t for all the people, our jobs would be easy. But then, if it were easy, no-one would need us experts. Once again, it’s the same old Catch-22 and just lots of hard work ahead.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

3 Thoughts to “The Psychic LIMS Expert”

  1. Nancy Ridenhour

    Years ago when I was working on a bank merger, a senior manager said to one I reported to about my project estimate “I may not know a lot about computers but I do not that all you have to do is press a few buttons and flip a few switches and you can do anything” I realized that PC’s had come in and in his mind this was correct. From somewhere my brain quickly thought and I said :this is true. However, when you flip the switches and press the buttons determines the outcome. If we press the buttons way to early, we will bring down every major bank system. If we flip early, we can bring down this system. If we flip a little too soon, we can bring down multiple transactions in this system. If we flip a little later we can bring down one section. If we flip when we are ready to handle things, we get back up faster. You pay me to know when to flip and press for the least amount of damage” My project estimate was agreed to by senior management.

    Sometimes we just have to understand where the idea comes from, agree with it and then explain the consequences of certain actions with it.

  2. Well, everything you say is true and it has been true since Adam and Eve. Read Exodus in the Bible. God lead the Jews out of Egypt and from slavery and what did he get all along the way…. Nothing but complaints. Nothing but disbelief. If people won’t believe God, then why would they believe Gloria Metrick?

    This is called willful blindness. So what is the solution in order to maintain your sanity?

    1.) Don’t worry about what the other person believes. Stick to the facts. Their disbelief is their problem and not yours (unless you are the one who is wrong and then you are the one with the big problem).

    2.) If your wealth and happiness depends on people believing you, you had better hedge your bets and have a diverse portfolio of services and customers so that you are not devastated by the customers you are trying to help, rejecting that help. You have to freely let it go and simply stand back and watch the car wreck happen or not and be happy with whatever the outcome is.

  3. John, it does actually become a problem if the next person doesn’t believe you. If you finish a project and are seen to have added no value, at all, then you’re usually out the door, whether you’re a consultant or an employee. As such, I would argue that we do have to be concerned about getting our message across. And, as with the comment that Nancy made, the experts sometimes have the insight to understand what the true issue is behind this lack of communcation. I would argue that this is part of what people are paying us for.

    I’ll also add this: when someone is paying me for my expertise, I take that seriously. I could never take the attitude that I’m willing to just take their money without making every effort I can for that money. That’s just not ethical. I don’t mean that we can truly add value to every customer, but we should be trying to or we shouldn’t be taking their money.

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