Who’s an Expert

“The 10,000 hour rule” is what Malcolm Gladwell proposes as the key to becoming an expert.  His book “Outliers” is gripping, exciting yet frightening.  It frightens me because of the realization that if I worked 5 hours each day for 5 days each week, it would take me approximately 9 years to become an expert.  Try saying that to any number of “experts” in our society and you’ll be laughed out-of-town. In this population of arm-chair experts, once you have access to an inner circle you can present yourself as an expert, no credentials required.

From Gladwell’s perspective, the process of becoming an expert requires time and significant effort. There is no short-cut along the road to excellence.  There are key questions to be considered. For instance, How to communicate to John and Mira TnT that excellence is our only option?  How can we turn-on our population to the realization that for TnT to be respected or treated as a major player on the world stage, we have to be experts in everything we choose to do?        
The only place to start is with the vision.  That might sound dogmatic and obvious, but if we don’t know where we are going then we are unlikely to have a pathway to get there. Unfortunately our vision changes every time a new political party takes over the governance of the country.  Successive governments with few exceptions, find it necessary to throw out whatever was done before and start something new even if it is simply to take the old idea and re-brand it to something that appears new.  Someone commented recently that in other countries, politics is viewed like running a relay where you “pass the baton but in Trinidad [and Tobago], you start over the race”.  In re-starting the race there is continuous upheaval and often unnecessary change.  The ultimate result is a colossal waste of money which can be used to improve health care and education.     
By way of example, the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company was established in 2006 with the mandate to develop the film industry.  For the past 6 years, they have been doing their jobs and attaining significant success.  If we judge by the increasing demand to view local films at the annual Film Festival, the increasing number of on -location requests to shoot films in this country and indeed the recent success of Lisa Wickham’s documentary “Forward Home”, then something is working here.  
If this was a private sector initiative, the Board of Directors would be in continued huddle to seek a sustainable way forward.  They would be asking critical questions like: “What has worked for us?” “What can we replicate?”  “Is there a “Best Practice” emerging here?”
In their 6 years of existence the Film Company has put in 10,000 hours and more, so Gladwell may have been inclined to call them experts in their area.  Dismantling such a successful company may not be a good idea.  A private sector approach suggests that you strengthen their capacity and increase their resources.  Any other approach would mean starting over.  Imagine having to start over to build your 10,000 hours.           
There is an underlying issue here that goes beyond the mere dismantling of one company. It’s the need to delink the development of the country from the politics of the day.  Projects and initiatives with the potential to serve the common good must not be held ransom or to the whim and fancy of politicians.  They must be allowed to flourish even if they were spawned from opposition politics.  The country’s development must not be stymied simply because there is a different political party in power.  That level of short sightedness is rather unfortunate.
After 50 years of independence, the time has come for us to establish a mechanism through which the views of citizens can be meaningfully canvassed and used to inform decision-making in critical areas.  In a population of 1.3 million, the pool of talent runs dry very quickly.         
On the individual level, the time has come for us to engage in meaningful debate about political philosophy and a range of other concepts which impact our lives.  There is a recognition that the world has moved far along from the edict that we never discuss politics and religion.  Indeed, it is such discussions that foster understanding  promote change and soften positions.            
Great communicators know that one way to understand the enemy is through communication.   

By Dennise Demming – Public Relations and Training Consultant 

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