Why we need experts (despite what public opinion may have you believe)

24 November 2016 -


Victory for Donald Trump and the Brexiteers was seen by many as a victory over expert opinion, but, in life and management, we look at why experts are still very much needed. The first in a series leading up to the announcement of the 2017 Management Book of the Year

By Management Book of the Year shortlisted author Jim Stewart

Recent political rhetoric has cast doubt on the value of ‘experts’ and so, by implication, on the value of expertise. But, who would want a plumber or, perhaps more tellingly, a surgeon who lacked expertise in their clamed specialism?

Given the choice, most sensible people would choose the expert over any other option. So it is, or should be, with managers.

Both those who fund and those who buy or receive goods and services from organisations; whether small or large; private, public or voluntary; new, growing or established; are more likely to be confident in their decision to fund or buy from those organisations which are managed by people who know what they are doing.

That statement implies a need for managers with expertise in managing.

Expertise in managing, as in plumbing or in surgery, demands knowledge. Knowledge in turn demands research, which is the well and generator of knowledge in every field.

Perhaps those who denigrate experts and expertise are in fact bemoaning the lack of practical, applicable, useable knowledge. It cannot be denied that some research has a difficulty demonstrating immediate relevance and value

That of itself is not a valid criticism. But, in a field such as management, relevance and use value are often the critical criteria. And so, knowledge based on management research must have a purpose, and a focus on problems and issues being experienced in the lived experience of practicing managers.

Achieving such research and knowledge is the rationale for professional doctorates.

Professional doctorates in business and management can take many forms, and select from a range of research paradigms. This book is clear that the criteria of relevance and use value need to be at the heart of research conducted by managers.

The book focuses on and advocates the value of what we term ‘actionable knowledge’. This simply means knowledge which is both drawn from action and which is then itself actioned.

In other words, the book advocates an inevitable and symbiotic relationship between knowledge and action.

The manager who analyses without acting is not managing. Who would want a manager who does not act? The manager who acts without analysing is not thinking. Who would want a manager who does not think?

We suggest, not many of the funders, buyers or service users of organisations.

Sensible people assess organisations on the quality of their managers. High quality managers think before they act and then reflect on the lessons emerging from their actions. Those are the arguments and nature of the content of this book.

The book is intended to inform, influence and shape how managers are trained, through undertaking professional doctorates, to do and to use research. Achieving that intent will itself have value for the practice of management.

But, its content and messages on action modes of research will be of interest outside the confines of formal qualifications.

Managers struggle daily with pressing problems and issues. Applying the approaches explained in the book will be of value to any manager who needs knowledge and understanding to deal with their specific and unique complex issues.

Written by academics with years of professional, managerial and consulting experience, the content is underpinned by a certainty in the value of informed, and expert, managerial practice.

A Guide to Professional Doctorates in Business Management by Lisa Anderson, Jeff Gold, Jim Stewart and Richard Thorpe is shortlisted in Management and Leadership Textbook category of the 2017 CMI Management Book of the Year

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