Can we take the Dunning-Kruger Effect graph and add a third axis for time?

I am obsessed with competence. It has been an obession for the last twenty years competing in private industry internally against colleagues and against external coemption for various projects. I have been fortunate that I have sit at the knee of very smart people that I would consider “experts.” Expert is an interesting word in private industry. After working professionally, we are told not to use the word “expert” because people would expect a level of work that is beyond what is the “standard” of what is provided by the industry. I see the word expert alot more academically and in social media circles. It seems that there are a lot of experts in both fields. Yet, the whole concept of “expert” is clouded for me looking back at a twenty year career.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect has been brought forward to explain to people what it takes to really “learn a subject.” Malcolm Galdwell’s book “Outliers” has promoted the idea that “ten thousand hours to be an expert.” So, that means that I should have reached the plateau of sustainability by now. I have worked 33,000 hours as a professionally and billing my time that a person/company pays for my work.

Professionally, I feel that I am still climbing the “slope of enlightment” even after the 33,000 hours of on the job experience, 4 years of undergraduate, 2 years doing a masters, and now 5 years of working part-time as a PhD. I don’t know what the plateau of sustainability looks like.

As I sit here, I wonder if the plateau of sustainability is wisdom. I heard recently that knowledge is what is taught or you get from a textbook that you can recall. I have had plenty of classes that I can’t recall a thing. Wisdom is the ability to recognize the patterns of what you were taught and using previous experiences to know what to do. I do not know if the plateau of sustainability is reserved for wisdom. I have another 30 years of hike the “slope of enlightenment.”

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1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading your reflection on expertise, wisdom, and your experiences in your career. I like the way you talked about the differences between wisdom and simply knowing things. There seems to be a stark contrast between my experience as an undergraduate with simply learning how to know things, as opposed to know where, like in our ethics course, we learn how to recognize patterns. I love learning, and between you and me, the plateau of sustainability seems cool but it also sounds a little less fun too once you get there.


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