Are you a CleanTech “expert”? (Or: Thoughts on being an “expert” in a fairly new industry…)
I was at a drinks party last night and in conversation was asked what I did so I explained that I worked with Clean Tech businesses. To which I was introduced to the next group as an expert, which got me worried, very worried.
The very definition of what is an “expert” can be is somewhat confusing, Wikipedia for example describes it as part of its definition as:
“An expert can be, by virtue of training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person”
Which automatically begs the question, so who is an average person?”
In the world of Clean Tech I am lucky to meet experts practically on a daily basis, not I may add due to the fact that I spend my days in wistful corridors of knowledge rubbing shoulders with high level academia. No this has more to do with the fact that I work in an area of business that is so young that being an expert is almost a necessity. Lets face it the average person (there’s that term again) has very little knowledge or understanding of the level of investment or the speed of advancement being made in solar power, renewable energy or power cells etc, all they see is global warming, recession and crisis, while looking for answers to growing power and fuel bills. What they do know is that a team of experts are working on it and one day the answer will be announced and the average person can worry about something more important like school fees and house prices.
So why does the word expert worry me? I have sat in numerous conference halls, listened to hundreds of pitches by experts stating that this is the future and this technology is the answer, or this is the problem that needs a solution. Only to be superseded some months later by a better thing or bigger problem. I am convinced that over the space of the next few years experts will come and go as they did back in the late 90’s in the .com boom (yes I was also there…still listening to experts….). I can remember the million dollar deals for web businesses that offered massive reward and delivered very little, all due to the fact that there was a 20 something expert, who said the right words and looked the part by not wearing a tie and lets face it he knew more than the average VC about what was right – because he said so. Please don’t get me wrong I have nothing against 23 year old wonder kids – I even know a few, but even they would have an issue with the word expert. What gives them comfort are the words like evangelist, trail-blazer and breaker of rules, creator of clever thinking – Expert means you have all of the answers and in this space, some of us are still trying to ensure we have the right questions.
So as a non expert, I look forward to meeting and helping more interesting and clever people that have good ideas and can see a need for something that is not yet there or needs to be developed. Who knows one day I may meet someone who has the answer for everything, but then he would be a genius and that’s a whole new article.
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