It seems a perfectly rational approach to appoint experts to the task of evaluating and judging new ideas in any field of knowledge. The startling truth is that, as a group, experts in any field of knowledge are the least suited to identify excellent new ideas. Experts are the most likely to ridicule and dismiss as nonsense those ideas that depart farthest from their familiar body of knowledge and beliefs in any field of expertise. The majority of experts are rote learners devoid of creative juices. They posses a vast store of knowledge of facts, figures and detailed minutia of their particular field of expertise but lack the creative ability to venture outside the confines of their narrow field of knowledge and beliefs.   


Experts in all fields of knowledge have been a vital ingredient in human endeavor and progress (and lack thereof) throughout the ages. Experts are vital for safe and slow changes that come in small incremental steps. On the other hand, experts stifle progress that requires great leaps of faith by discarding old sacredly held beliefs and replacing them with totally new insights. Thus experts guard mankind from potential disasters by restraining enthusiasm for good sounding ideas that in reality could turn out to be big mistakes. On the other hand, experts deprive mankind from making big leaps of progress by totally ignoring or ridiculing new ideas that constitute a total departure from their familiar body of currently held beliefs.


Experts are primarily the “Guardians of the Status-Quo”. This means that experts most often stifle progress because they are very averse to new ideas that differ from their strongly held beliefs. Their reasoning is that they know almost everything about the body of knowledge and beliefs dealing with the area of their expertise and that anything in conflict with that body of beliefs must be false. Not a logical approach, because all new ideas by definition must differ from the old ideas.
Ridiculing and dismissing all really new ideas is a very safe and practical approach for experts because 80% of all new ideas are most likely nonsense and 20% range from acceptable to brilliant. Merely saying “NO” to all things new will result in an impressive track record of at least 80% of the time being right (see 


Experts are also the “Masters of Minutia”. This means that experts know the smallest detail about their field of expertise but they often have great difficulty seeing the big picture. That is why small incremental changes to their conventional beliefs are much more acceptable to them than complete replacement of their beliefs with totally new ideas.


Experts are much more open to tinkering with small details of existing accepted ideas and beliefs than to discarding old ideas and adopting sweepingly new ideas. When confronted with totally new ideas that they have not had the time to ponder, they try to dismiss these ideas with quick jabs of unsupported arguments that have a clear ring of authority but often amount to nothing more than impressive sounding jargon and acronyms that no one outside their expert fraternity knows the meaning of.


Expertise does not denote correctness or accurate fact. Expertise is merely the ability to offer opinions based upon a body of firmly held beliefs in a particular field of knowledge. It is a reflection of currently held beliefs supported by interesting sounding acronyms and phrases developed specially for and by the experts belonging to the fraternity of each particular body of expert beliefs.


Brilliant new ideas are destined for ridicule and easy dismissal because they cannot hope to be supported by experts for reasons of their dissimilarity to the firmly held expert beliefs. The creators of such very new ideas cannot be expected to be experts because experts are not the creators of ideas that seek to destroy the body of belief that is the foundation to their expertise. Experts can only be expected to create small mediocre incremental changes to the body of their own expert beliefs. Those incremental small change ideas created by experts triumph easily over brilliant revolutionary ideas created by non-experts because tinkering with old ideas is what experts are good at and their colleagues will easily agree no matter whether the tinkering makes the original idea more complicated or inferior. That is how the original 14 page USA income tax of the year 1913 grew to the 17,000 page monstrosity it is today (2005).  


So who, if not experts, should judge new ideas? There are experts who are not rote learners reciting old ideas in opposition to new ideas. They are creative thinkers and know that dismissing new ideas simply because they are unfamiliar is an arrogant mistake that precludes progress. But where do we find those experts? They are not the experts that appear on expert lists for media wonks to chose from when they are in need of sound bites or video clips. They are the kind of experts that are very careful in having any kind of quick opinions or to make quick negative pronouncements about any new idea unfamiliar to them. They are not very useful for the media or for panels of experts because they do not give quick opinions or make judgments about brand new ideas. They excuse themselves and request time for reflection. They like to study the new idea before giving their opinion and that does not make for the immediate news required by the media.


The best solution might be to make panels of experts aware of the natural tendencies of experts and beg them to be less arrogant and give brand new ideas the special attention they deserve instead of quickly  dismissing all things new based upon the illogical reason that they do not conform to their standard body of knowledge and beliefs. Over 80% of new ideas will still be found to be wrong but at least the 20% of new ideas that are actually good or even excellent will have a fair chance of being found to be good or excellent.

Questions and comments to:
Alf Temme
alf (at)