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#240: Difference Between and Expert and a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 12, 2010
Updated: Friday, February 12, 2010
Is there any difference between an expert and a consultant?

There are profound differences between experts and consultants. An expert is generally regarded as one who has specialized knowledge of a domain or discipline. This knowledge may be validated by widespread acceptance by others with similar knowledge or by users of this knowledge. This resident ability may come from experience, training, education apprenticeship or a combination thereof. We generally seek out experts to make decisions or acquire knowledge for ourselves. Recognized expertise often takes years of applied effort to achieve.

A consultant is one who uses knowledge, ability or a process to resolve a problem, suggest a course of action or create new knowledge. In contrast to an expert, in whom usually resides information that serves as an answer to a problem, a consultant brings a suite of attributes and abilities to create a solution. These attributes may include expertise, but usually extend to independence, objectivity, analytical processes, extensive skills in pattern recognition, communication, and emotional intelligence. The value of a consultant is to be able to correctly diagnose and effectively transform an often ill-defined problem and apply information, resources and processes to create a workable and usable solution. Some experts are good consultants and vice versa, some are neither, few are both.

Tip: Becoming a good management consultant, just as acquiring expertise, takes a long time of applied effort. Having developed expertise in an industry or subject matter domain, some individuals consider it an easy step to become consultants. Broad and solid working knowledge, but not necessarily expertise, is an essential foundation for successful management consulting. Consultants who expand their understanding of many domains are among the most successful, just the opposite of experts, who seek to deepen their understanding and command of a specific area of knowledge. Rather than focusing on one particular industry or discipline, 21st century consultants are increasingly finding their greatest value in being able to apply their skills in evolving and entirely new industries, often identifying and applying the critical capabilities of experts as needed.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting terminology  professionalism  roles and responsibilities  your consulting practice 

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