About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


As I have been working on my dissertation, one of the "emerging" ideas (using grounded theory) has to do with expertise and how it is accessed within an organization. I have identified three "expertise" concepts that effect distributed teams (teams that are not located in the same place or department): identifying expertise, lack of expertise, and no expertise.

Identifying expertise

In identifying expertise, distributed teams may find an expert internal or external to the group or identifying the communal expertise. In other words, individuals may not hold the expertise, but the group together may possess expertise for their work by combining human capital and resources.

The factors that go into identifying expertise, however, may include the willingness of individuals to share their expertise, having an expertise that is needed or recognized by individuals, the group and/or the organization, or defining or identifying expertise that is important within the team or organization's power structure. For example, someone might have an expertise that is not considered relevant by decision makers. As a result this expertise is either ignored or a person with this expertise will not share it because it is not politically advantageous.

Withholding expertise effects teams and how they work. Often the withholding of expertise is dependent on the level of trust that team members have within their group, but also within a department or the organization as a whole.

Lack of expertise

Lack of expertise differs from no expertise in that there is some knowledge, but perhaps it is not relevant for the situation, it is distributed among group members so no one person has the expertise (each individual lacks expertise) or the expertise cannot be accessed as a group (perhaps it rests within a department that hoards the expertise or it is not recognized within the power structure of the organization).

There are three options when a group lacks expertise. They can either go outside to access an expert, they can bring in a new team member with the expertise they need, or they can train or develop the expertise within their group. The choice they make depends on scheduling, resources, the power structure of the organization and where the team fits, and goals. A forth option is to deal with lack of expertise the best they can, making up for the lack in other areas of the project where there is a high level of expertise.

No expertise

More often than not, no expertise will be met with a disruption in the group. Like the lack of expertise, no expertise can result in accessing outside consultants, putting a project on hold until new team members with the expertise are brought into the group, or training one or more of the group members in that expertise.

Of course, it is rare that there is no expertise. Often there is the expertise within the group, but that expertise is overlooked because of organizational politics or withheld by group members because of the organizational power structure. An individual may also not recognize their level of expertise, so be unwilling to share their limited expertise for fear of failure with the group or organization (thus creating a lower level of cognitive trust within the group).

The "expertise grid" or the "social grid for knowledge"

What I am working on now is how expertise is accessed within an organization and/or distributed group. How do groups identify expertise that they need to accomplish their work? How do they maximize the pathways so there is not a bottle neck to expertise in a timely manner? How do groups manage the need of expertise?

I look at it as similar to how power companies use a grid to route power through its structures as demand ebs and flows or how companies develop structures for communication (communication grid) during emergency situations.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I think there is another factor associated with 'no expertise' that the group depends on. The individual or individuals with no expertise can still learn from the group if

(a) they have a mind to learn and

(b) there is a culture of sharing ideas and knowledge within the group.

What people with no expertise can often bring in these circumstances is their own intellect and freshness of someone introduced to established and sometimes authoritative practice or knowledge.

This is where there's the possibility that input from the 'no expertise' who is learning can be seen as being disruptive. It doesn't have to be that way. There's a fine balance.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

Great point. Sometimes those with no expertise can make implicit knowledge explicit. Without them to ask the questions, experts don't know what they know! In fact, what I am finding is that this questioning ability is important in developing group expertise. When a team leader or manager outside of the group makes a decision to stop these questions "because of time constraints", there appears to be less expertise available or it needs to be found outside of the group.