Fluency suggests a high level of competence. Indeed, it is competence in action.
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 can deliver 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 new knowledge and skills. Expertise is even more deliberate, more focused. The expert puts in the really long hours 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)
- Related to the above point, tighter communication and coordination with employers and other key stakeholders around what the nature of these learning experiences should be – e.g., pre-selling and meaningful design rather than just the standard catalog publishing. (Your catalog has been trumped by the combination of Google and social media.)
- Valid measurement of actual impact (as opposed to relying solely on Level I “smile sheet” type evaluations – see my comments on those here)
- Focused, well-managed efforts to find and and cultivate the best instructor/facilitator 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 (not just supporting the usual suspects). This might include facilitating expert mentoring or funding important projects or sabbaticals. (And, if you are an expert, it means continually investing in your own learning and development.)
Naturally, these things don’t happen without vision, planning, and perhaps most importantly, leadership. Heady stuff, yes, but just the type of things to be putting some thought into sooner rather than later. Thoughts?
P.S. – This is an updated version of a post I did a couple of years ago. I think it is at least as relevant now as it was then.