Do credentials and expertise change in the digital economy?

Do credentials and expertise change in the digital economy?

Credentials are an effective (but lazy) heuristic for assessing someone’s level of expertise. Where you went to school, for instance, can quickly say something about your basic intellect, what you know about a subject (i.e. your major), and your ability to take standardized tests. It’s basically Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 “the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach.” But in a world where information is practically free and infinite and the cost of building things continues to plummet, we need “the mind’s slower, analytical mode, where reason dominates” to help us establish credentials.

I spoke to Sarah Peck on the Rad Awakenings podcast about creating online products and courses. She had just walked us through the DIY process she used to create her first online course for 23 people but I really wanted to know: Just because you’re smart on a topic, what gives you the credentials and expertise to expect someone else to pay you for it. After all, her courses were on writing and storytelling, but she wasn’t an english major nor a published author.

Sarah had clearly thought through her lack of formal training:

That’s what everyone was asking and we have a shortcut – degrees or certifications. What we’re looking for is a reason for people to believe you. The good news is that you can give people reasons but you have to demonstrate it

So how did she go demonstrating her expertise?

I had started teaching storytelling on the side at General Assembly (when it was a startup). So I had some experience teaching and was able to put that on the sales page. I also was doing a lot of writing for my company.But I took it upon myself over the course of the year to read 85 books on storytelling and marketing and I listed them on my website for people based on how good I thought they were. After listing them all, I was able to consolidate my thinking. So no, I didn’t go to school for it – but I did the work and here’s how I did it.

And ultimately, this was “all the buy-in [she] needed. ” And as her blog became her portfolio, her future clients would say to her “I see  you write a blog, where I can see your writing in action.”

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