Fluency suggests a high level of competence. When we are “fluent,” we feel deeply familiar with the knowledge and skills related to our chosen field or industry. We can use them effectively, without even having to think about them in many instances. A profession or trade full of fluent people delivers a tremendous amount of value to the broader society it serves.
Expertise goes quite a bit beyond this.
To achieve fluency involves a great deal of unconscious connecting and learning along with deliberate efforts to acquire and retain. Expertise is even more deliberate, more focused. The expert puts in the really long hours – about 10,000 of them, some say – and consciously stretches, analyzes, reflects, and repeats again and again.
You can’t make experts or force people to become fluent, but you can help provide optimal conditions and opportunities for the necessary learning. This may involve (in no particular order):
- More learning experiences that integrate into the flow of work, rather than relying so heavily on the traditional interruption methods (e.g., conferences, Webinars)
- Tighter communication and coordination with employers and other key stakeholders around what the nature of these learning experiences should be
- Valid measurement of actual impact (as opposed to relying solely on Level I evaluations – see my comments on those here)
- Focused, well-managed efforts to find and and cultivate the best teacher talent (which is often different from presenter talent) among your community of subject matter experts
- Formal efforts to identify and support the emerging experts in your field. This might include facilitating expert mentoring or funding important projects or sabbaticals
Naturally, these things don’t happen without vision, planning, and perhaps most importantly, leadership. Heady stuff, yes, but probably just the type of things to be putting some thought and effort into as we round the corner to a new year. Thoughts?