Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Becoming An Expert

Posted on: May 11, 2011

How to become an expert in some field, any field?

This is not an easy question to answer. We start in our field(s) as a beginner, learn, perform our tasks, observe, listen from others and slowly gain experience, expertise, skills… few years down the line, suddenly we are treated as experts (or not). How exactly this transition happens? No one seems to know.

If we can somehow understand this expert-making process, the benefits are endless. We can look at the stage we are in, observer what we are lacking when compared to people in same stage, and higher, plan the improvements required, measure how effectively we are performing in our ‘expert journey’ and so on.

(Image Courtesy: )

Dr. Paul Schempp has spent around 20 years studying experts. He is a genuine expert in the field of expertise. In his book ‘5 Steps To Expert’ he talks about five distinct stages that everyone goes thro’ when they become experts:

· Beginner (Everyone starts here, Limited experience, knowledge, and skill, Rely on established procedures, Attempt to mimic the skills of experienced, Conform to the traditions)

· Capable (Some Experience gained, Can perform assigned tasks at a capable level, Understand the requirements, Able to respond to situations)

· Competent (Planning is done contingently, analyzing situations, Prioritizing, Competent performance)

· Proficient (Consistently performing above average)

· Expert (Very few people can consistently do what you do, with the level of quality you are able to achieve)

This framework fits for every field, and there are some very interesting observations. Mainly:

· You can’t jump steps. Size of the step is dependent on various factors. But, However small a stage it may be, you need to cross them one after the other

· Realizing where you are is more important than anything else – It is very easy to get frustrated about not becoming an expert even after so many months / years of effort, But seen from this framework, it gives a clue what’s wrong

· Which step you are in: It is not individual-score, But field / area dependent, You may be in step 2 in a field and step 4 in another (Think of an all rounder in cricket!)

· Not everyone completes all five steps. Many stay forever in a lower step – Especially #3 and #4 are most dangerous and you may be locked there. Beware!

· Even when you reach the fifth step, the journey is not over. Experts continuously improve themselves to stay at top. So it is a virtual treadmill at step 5!



N. Chokkan …

11 05 2011


1 Response to "Why Not? — Becoming An Expert"

I would like to comment about the above said post on May 11,2011.
5 Steps to expert – it is derived by the nursing expert called as Patericia Benner for expert nursing practice in the year of 1984. It can be applicable for all professsional courses. Based on this theory only, today’s policy making agencies are mandating compulsary practical sesssion during the learning period.

for further reference, Please browse for the following link,

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