Culture of Experts

Module #2

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 Establishment 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 Establishment 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 Establishment 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 follow intellectual curiosity, initiate activity, gain relevant information, strategize, commit to a project, create ideas, test ideas, fail and use failure as a platform for new and better ideas. Much like eating, they do all of this automatically, without thinking about it.

Meet this contemporary breed of experts: Unconventional Experts

Unconventional Experts do not recognize themselves as experts, as the knowledge they seek always brings them to a new
starting point. If you are reading this, you are probably an expert, although, you may not have 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) Intellectual curiosity
2) Initiate activity
3) Gain relevant information
4) Strategize
5) Commit to a project
6) Create ideas
7) Test ideas
8) Fail
9) Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
10) Repeat (eventually … find mastery)

The 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 getting things done. Oversimplifying the work-process will help identify and recognize Unconventional Experts.

Unconventional Expert also have an individual work-journey. This is their mission, path, exploration, rabbit hole, experimentation. Their work-journey is far more than a work-process, it is the work-process in motion, in real world situations; forwarding the projects that they commit to. Like a real-life drama, their 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 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.

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

1) Unconventional Experts don’t know that they are experts
Unconventional Experts do not know that they are experts, as the knowledge they seek always 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. Resolving curiosity is important to them, however, an abbreviated answer or short-cut resolution will not be satisfactory.

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 actually take the longer of two paths. 

4) Unconventional Experts believe in activity
Some people will not move forward with complex activities unless they are being compensated appropriately. These individuals might even carry an enormous amount of debt, to finance a formal education, however, the minute they are asked to do work without payment they feel that someone is taking advantage of them. Because Unconventional Experts use failure as a part of their work-process, they are used to working without monetary gain and are more apt to contribute without direct recompense.

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, 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 of evolution.

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 explore
Unconventional Experts see strategy as a map to their exploration. They understand, however, that the map shows vague geography rather than a specific path. They do not bound themselves to any one direction as they know that there will be obstacles to bypass. They are also open to finding hidden treasures. They might leverage opportunities, even if they don’t fit into the plan.

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 complex individual work-process of Unconventional Experts make for a complex work-journey. They are not necessarily complex on a personal level, however, the complexities to their efforts easily come through within a personal conversation, when they talk about favorite hobbies, arts, crafts, DIY home improvements, connoisseurship, inventions and/or disciplines.

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. The beginning is intellectual curiosity, they live the middle and they envision the end; although, they are open minded to an outcome that is different than their original vision.

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 … always tested … sometimes failed; with the use of 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. Sometimes small ideas simply accumulate into intangible results that can be observed within skill or professionalism.

14) Unconventional Experts test ideas
Unconventional Experts aren’t only idea people, they are execution experts. They are not afraid to test an idea and measure the results. Unlike Traditional Establishment 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, the work-journey. 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 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 if the business climate remains the same, they are always strategizing to 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 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 test ideas that are of their own creation. Because of this, they have strong confidence in their findings. In addition, they are very passionate about the expert-journeys 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. This is the case because it is of their own creation. 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, as well as their own individual work-process; both at the same time. Within unstructured environments, where individual work-process needs to dominate, Unconventional Experts thrive.

27) Unconventional Experts might not be book smart
Professional-level Traditional Establishment Experts are generally classically educated. Unconventional Experts are relevant information experts, through the use of the internet as a tool. With this, 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 Establishment 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.

How did they do?

Do Unconventional Experts fit into unconventional positions?

[√] Unstructured
[√] Complex
[√] Creativity-driven
[√] Strategy-dependent
[√] Project-oriented

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

How can one tell if someone is an Unconventional Expert?

Once the concept of Unconventional Experts sinks in, it is relatively easy to spot them. The biggest tell is the free-time activities that they pursue outside of their careers. The same information that is typically overlooked within job interviews.

Fool’s Gold – know-it-alls are not Unconventional Experts
It is not unusual for know-it-alls to pose as experts. They often land in complex positions because they are able to convince leadership that their intelligence and confidence will drive their capabilities. Most often, they are more focused on the impressions they leave than the quality of work that they perform.

• Are driven by ego more than curiosity.
• Attempt to climb the corporate ladder and/or company unwritten hierarchy through the manipulation of information.
• Attempt to dominate coworkers through games of one-upmanship.
• Can hold important information close to the vest.
• Share information when it is to their advantage.
• Hold information that has a varied degree of accuracy.
• Have ideas, but they are often borrowed ideas and they are seldom tested.
• Will often fall short on activity, and try to get other people to perform important tasks that they feel are below them.
• Are rarely a good hire. Being able to spot them is a good skill to have.

Some Unconventional Experts openly share their relevant information; some do not. When Unconventional Experts share information, it is not to glorify themselves, but to benefit others. When they share their information and opinions, it is recommended to politely ask them for their source. If the information is within their expertise, they will probably have strong contact with it and an interesting story behind it, rather than information gleaned from a publication.

Self-Improvement Cheerleaders
There’s nothing wrong with promoting self-improvement, however, we all know someone who qualifies as a walking hang-in-there poster. They can easily provide canned encouragement, however, when it comes to individual work-process, they can’t seem to advance their own agenda as far as their recommendations to others.

Although they mean well, self-improvement cheerleaders attempt to add external tasks, where an innate foundation for success already exists: “If we simply do this, we will find success.” They default to an external additive approach, even when a subtractive approach is a better solution. Within a Culture of Experts, individual work-processes are very complex. A subtractive approach can mean the removal of organizational generalizations, stereotypes, habits and policies that stand as barriers to employee development.

Rarely are self-improvement cheerleaders Unconventional Experts. Often, they are potential Unconventional Experts trying to find their way.

Traditional Establishment Experts and Unconventional Experts share many of the same qualities.
Is it possible to be both?
Some of the best Traditional Establishment Experts are also Unconventional Experts.
Some of the best Unconventional Experts are also Traditional Establishment Experts.

Unconventional Experts versus Artificial intelligence robots
Comparing work-process is an interesting exercise, as the exclusively human qualities of the Unconventional Expert become apparent. Intellectual curiosity is the spark and creativity is the fire.

An expert’s work-journey will never be replaced by AI. Within an expert’s work-journey, human flaws become advantages, human experiences create new paths and human nature provides contributions for human beings. The expert-trek is also unique to humans. While experts strive for mastery, AI will find achievement within consistency, self sufficiency and calculated decisions.

Unconventional Expert
Individual work-process

1) Intellectual curiosity
2) Initiate activity
3) Gain relevant information
4) Strategize
5) Commit to a project
6) Create ideas
7) Test ideas
8) Fail
9) Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
10) Repeat (eventually … find mastery)

Artificial intelligence

1) AI makes observations, accesses databases and leverages big data
2) AI recognizes and categorizes information
3) AI calculates categorized information to make predictions
4) AI uses predictions to make decisions
5) AI uses decisions to commit to a physical movement or calculated result
6) AI does not achieve desired result (fails)
7) AI uses failure as a calculation to improve categorizations and machine learning
8) AI repeats until it finds successful physical movements or calculated results

Corporate Culture Assessment Questions
Module #2 – Unconventional Expert Characteristics

3) Name one person that you know, whom you would consider an Unconventional Expert?
4) Does your company look deeply into individual work-process when assessing candidates and employees?

See all of the module assessment questions in module #11 

Culture of Experts Interview Questions
Module #2 – Unconventional Expert Characteristics

5) Shown below, is an example of a general process, as a worker creates an individual work-process to address a complex task. How does this compare to your individual work-process, as you perform complex tasks?

1) Intellectual curiosity
2) Initiate activity
3) Gain relevant information
4) Strategize
5) Commit to a project
6) Create ideas
7) Test ideas
8) Fail
9) Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
10) Repeat (eventually … find mastery)

6) Within a career task or personal task, name a specific task that best leverages your individual work-process?

Tasks may include:
• A complex career task.
• A personal hobby, art, craft, DIY home improvement, connoisseurship, invention or discipline.
• The process for buying a big-ticket item, like an automobile or a house.

See all of the module interview questions in module #12

Culture of Experts is a free talent program by Human Castle Executive Search. For expert recruitment visit us at or call (716)222-3535.

Please proceed to module #3: Expert-Trek: The Journey to Mastery

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