An Employee Workshop for Aspiring Experts

Unconventional Workshop 4

Unconventional Expert Characteristics


Throughout history, traditional experts have been looked at with a certain reverence. Considered extremely educated and highly skilled, they are respected for their mastery of foundational disciplines. These disciplines were, and still are, established schools of thought and documented bodies of work, best represented within colleges, universities, trade schools and apprenticeship programs. They are often supported by third party associations, organizations or accreditation bodies that designate requirements and certify or license their disciplines. They hold a rich history and are foundational to our economy and culture. These traditional institution-guided experts include engineers, electricians, software developers, accountants, carpenters, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, architects, medical professionals, HR representatives, insurance agents, investment brokers and most professional-level positions and skilled trades.


In the age of the internet, information is quickly at our fingertips. Because of this, there is a new breed of experts. Where traditional institution-guided experts are deeply rooted within stationary schools of thought, this new breed of experts will thrive on real-time information, with the use of the internet as a tool. Outside of a standardized way of thinking, they will focus on the relevancy of information, as it pertains to the work that is directly in front of them. These new experts are every bit as complex as traditional institution-guided experts, in that they own an individual worker-process. This work-process guides them when more traditional processes are absent. Within their work-process, they foster curiosity, initiate activity, gain relevant information, discover possibilities, strategize, commit to a project, create ideas, realize ideas, test ideas and often fail. They use failure as a platform for new and better ideas. Much like eating, they do all of this automatically, without even thinking about it.

Meet this contemporary breed of experts: Unconventional Experts

Although, the internet has given Unconventional Experts an entryway to the the world’s information, it is important to understand, Unconventional Experts are not new. They invented personal computers. They invented the wheel. 

Unconventional Experts do not typically recognize themselves as experts, as the knowledge they seek brings them to a new starting point. You might already be an Unconventional Expert, without previously recognized it.

What differentiates Unconventional Experts?

Unconventional Experts are workers who create and own a complex individual work-process. Certainly, they work within the guidelines of operational company-process, but their individual work-process is what they use to explore the world around them. This work-process might look something like this:

1) Foster curiosity
2) Initiate activity
3) Gain relevant information
4) Discover possibilities
5) Strategize
6) Commit to a project
7) Create ideas
8) Realize ideas
9) Test ideas, find success or failure
10) Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
11) Repeat part or all of the process
12) Eventually, find achievement
Bonus – Ultimately, gain some level of mastery

The individual work-process above is grossly oversimplified and its chronological order is a possible example, at best. The defining differentiator is the fact that every Unconventional Expert has a complex individual work-process; whether they realize it or not. It is their map, blue print, flow-chart, theoretical approach to complex work.

Unconventional Expert also have an individual work-journey. This is their mission, path, exploration, rabbit hole, experimentation. Their individual work-journey is far more than a work-process, it is their individual work-process in motion, in real world situations; forwarding the projects that they commit to. Like a real-life drama, their individual work-journey will tell a story of ambitions, activities, plots, understandings, misunderstandings, challenges, success, failure, overcoming failure and accomplishments. There are no guarantees in this story, except the guarantee that there will be personal growth.

The individual work-journey plays a large role in job satisfaction. Was the work intriguing or laborious? Was there exploration or clock-watching? Was the work rewarding or frustrating? Where the work-process is a formula for working things out, the work-journey is the chemistry between the worker and the work. Without a positive work-journey, the longevity of the project or position is at risk.

Traditional institution-guided experts and Unconventional Experts share many of the same qualities.
Is it possible to be both?
Some of the best traditional institution-guided experts are also Unconventional Experts.
Some of the best Unconventional Experts are also traditional institution-guided experts.

To gain better understanding of Unconventional Experts, here are 30 generalized characteristics.

1) Unconventional Experts do not typically recognize themselves as experts
Unconventional Experts do not always know that they are experts, as the knowledge they seek brings them to a new starting point.

2) Unconventional Experts have intellectual curiosity
For Unconventional Experts, everything  starts with curiosity. They not only have intellectual curiosity, they are void of hesitation when it comes to pursuing it. They know that one discovery might raise two more questions, and are open to expanding the focus of their curiosity.

3) Unconventional Experts do not take short cuts
Unconventional Experts work within a complex individual work-process of their own creation. To take a short cut would mean to short change their own process. When their intellectual curiosity forces expansion of their projects, Unconventional Experts will often take the longer of two paths. 

4) Unconventional Experts believe in activity
Some people, within their careers, will not move forward with complex activities unless they are being directly compensated. These same people might have paid tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for their college education, but once they are in their careers, they want all activity to pay. Because Unconventional Experts test ideas within their individual work-process, they are used to the risks associated with failure. They do not expect employers to cover all of their career risks and can commit to activity that does not come with direct monetary gain.

5) Unconventional Experts focus on relevant information
Unconventional Experts focus on knowledge that is closest to the action. Within a complex project, there are many moving parts. Strategy, the creation of ideas, the realization of ideas and the testing of ideas all requiring relevant information. Through trial and error, the relevancy of information is constantly being updated. Where task-oriented individuals want to see stability, Unconventional Experts thrive in an environment that evolves.

6) Unconventional Experts love strategy
Unconventional Experts love to strategize. It leverages their creativity to bridge their intellectual curiosity with activity.

7) Unconventional Experts have a flexible vision
Every project is preceded by a vision. Unconventional Experts are not fixed on one definite result, so their vision has some flexibility. To them, the promise of the journey is more present than a singular and specific vision of the potential results.

8) Unconventional Experts discover possibilities
Unconventional Experts discover possibilities and use them as primary motivation for their exploration. They understand, however, that this path never leads to an exact future. They do not bound themselves to any single direction. Along the way, they are constantly redefining what is possible. They are also open to finding hidden treasures, as exploration can lead to more possibilities.

9) Unconventional Experts make their own opportunities
Because Unconventional Experts work within their own complex individual work-process, it is not common for them to drop everything they are doing to chase an outside opportunity, for which they cannot themselves control. Within their work-process, they see opportunity as small vacuums that they can uniquely fill. For Unconventional Experts, opportunity is everywhere and their work-process is designed to explore it.

10) Unconventional Experts take comfort in complexity
The work of Unconventional Experts is complex. Unconventional Experts are not necessarily complex people, on a personal level, but the complexities of their efforts easily come through within specific conversations surrounding their expertise.

11) Unconventional Experts are project-oriented
At some point in time, Unconventional Experts put a border around their momentum and commit to it as a project.

12) Unconventional Experts think big
Because Unconventional Experts are project-oriented, they are used to projects of all shapes and sizes. Over time, they learn that the size of the project is only limited by their life span. Unconventional Experts take on huge projects. They do get frustrated when they bite off more than they can chew, but they continue to chew.

13) Unconventional Experts have small ideas too
Unconventional Experts have ideas; large and small. It is easy to discuss ideas on a grand scale, and even romance invention. For Unconventional Experts, a new idea might be as simple as a new way to explain a product feature, so that customers can better understand. Small idea after small idea, good ideas are realized, realized ideas are tested; some ideas fail. Unconventional Experts use failure as a platform for new and better ideas. If the explanation of a product feature does not work, maybe a diagram will show better results. Sometimes, small ideas add up to big ideas. Over time, small ideas accumulate and amplify skill.

14) Unconventional Experts test ideas
Unconventional Experts aren’t only idea people, they are execution experts that are not afraid to develop ideas, test ideas and measure the results. Unlike traditional institution-guided experts, they advance themselves outside of a purely scientific approach. Without hesitation, they put their ideas to use, within the real world, as an extension of their efforts. Sometimes, they don’t even recognize their ideas as ideas, but modifications to their individual work-process. With a trial and error mentality, they constantly evolve.

15) Unconventional Experts become engulfed within a work-journey
When Unconventional Experts think about financial success, they do not see an end-situation that is void of a journey. When thinking about the purchase of a luxury item, they will not fully understand pride of ownership, as it might exist on its own. Unconventional Experts have an individual work-process. When it is encapsulated within a project, it takes on a life of its own. This is the heart of the story; the rabbit hole that leads them to the other side. Yes, Unconventional Expert do want to reach achievement. Call it, the end of the story. It is the work-journey, however, that will engulf their attention.

16) Unconventional Experts are not wishful thinkers
Unconventional Experts do not wait for their ship to come in. They know that all real achievement is followed by a complex process. Luck is not factored in as a part of their complex individual work-process. They will never see complete value within windfall luck, as it is void of a work-journey.

17) Unconventional Experts see failure differently
Because they create ideas, realize ideas and test ideas, Unconventional Experts see failure within the scope of exploration; to-find or not-to-find. Not-to-find simply means to look in other places.

18) Unconventional Experts use failure as a platform
As they explore, Unconventional Experts springboard off of their failures. As relevant information experts, failure updates their information, as well as the relevancy of their information. This puts them in a position to create new and better ideas.

19) Unconventional Experts are ever changing, always evolving
Because they are relevant information experts, Unconventional Experts
are always changing. Even when obstacles are absent, they will improve
the efficiencies and results of their individual work-process. When they
look at accomplishments within a project, they see the accumulation of
good ideas. When they see accomplishments within the world, they
understand the inherent complexities and necessary evolution.

20) Unconventional Experts use tools
Unconventional Experts are very focused on the tools, materials and medium used to forward a project. This is because they embrace the work-journey as much as they embrace the results of the work. Within their work-journey, Unconventional Experts see their tools within the same light as musicians see their musical instruments.

21) Unconventional Experts seek methodology
Unconventional Experts look for situations where parts of their individual work-process can be repeated within a complex methodology. Within an organization, they might consider their methodology a secret sauce or a trade secret.

22) Unconventional Experts research
Using the internet as a tool, Unconventional Experts research everything. Including but not limited to; articles, manufacturer specifications, user reviews, instructional videos and Q & A through forums. To Unconventional Experts, the source of information can be as important as the information. Multiple sources of information can be important, to cross reference information.

23) Unconventional Experts are opinionated
Unconventional Experts create ideas, realize ideas and test ideas. Because of this, they have strong confidence in their findings. In addition, they are very passionate about the expert-trek they travel. For topics within their experience and expertise, they are very opinionated. 

24) Unconventional Experts hold responsibility
One of the greatest advantages of Unconventional Experts is that they feel responsible for their individual work-process, as they create it. With responsibility comes hard work, commitment, loyalty, self-motivation and cooperation.

25) Unconventional Experts do not need to be micro managed
Because they work within their own individual work-process, Unconventional Experts can find their own way. They do need guidance, however, as they are still responsible for the requirements of their position and they still need to move in a direction that benefits the company.

26) Unconventional Experts thrive within unstructured environments
Within structured environments, Unconventional Experts can follow company-process, and revert to individual work-process, when needed. Within unstructured environments, where individual work-process needs to dominate, Unconventional Experts thrive.

27) Unconventional Experts might not be book smart
Professional-level traditional institution-guided experts are generally classically educated. Unconventional Experts are relevant information experts, through the use of the internet as a tool. They do not need to be book smart, as the internet puts the world at their fingertips. Often, in the age of the internet, Unconventional Experts use internet search skills as a substitute for book smart.

28) Unconventional Experts are self-educated
Whether or not Unconventional Experts have a college degree or trade school certification, they are informally educated through their individual work-process. Their knowledge may not always overlap that which is taught in the traditional educational institutions, however, they eventually learn the fundamentals of every practice, one way or another.

29) Unconventional Experts are often extreme hobbyists
Unconventional Experts make good use of their free-time. Whether it be a hobby, art, DIY home improvement, connoisseurship, invention or discipline; Unconventional Experts have a tendency to apply themselves to personal projects within their spare time. Certainly, raising kids or working 70 hours a week can affect extracurricular activity, however, Unconventional Experts will have a history of personal projects.

30) Unconventional Experts are everywhere
… and no one is even looking.

If an Unconventional Expert is passionate about coffee; the bean, roasting process, grinder and coffee maker will be explored.

Workshop 4 questions:

1) Do Unconventional Experts fit into unconventional positions in a way that is:
• Unstructured?
• Complex?
• Creativity-driven?
• Strategy-dependent?
• Project-oriented?

UnconventionalEXPERTS is a free career resource created by Martin Haslinger.
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© 2023 Martin Haslinger

Workshop 4 answers:

1) Do Unconventional Experts fit into unconventional positions in a way that is:
• Unstructured? Answer – Yes, see characteristic #26
• Complex? Answer – Yes, see characteristic #10
• Creativity-driven? Answer – Yes, see characteristic #13
• Strategy-dependent? Answer – Yes, see characteristic #6
• Project-oriented? Answer – Yes, see characteristic #11 and #12