Attributes to Look for When you Must Select an “Expert”

If you enjoyed our last post where we explored the effectiveness of financial titans, an example of how medical professionals can be fallible, and how incentives lead realtors to to work against your best interest (Link), but find yourself still in need an “Expert” seek out these traits adapted from The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.


Attributes to Look For:

  • Multidisciplinary: Demonstrates the ability to incorporate ideas from other fields or disciplines
  • Adaptable: Finds new approaches or willing to pursue multiple approaches at the same time
  • Self-Critical: Willingness to take ownership for mistakes or failed predictions
  • Tolerant of Complexity: Understanding that the universe is complex and recognizes that some things are unpredictable (e.g. Black Swans)
  • Cautious: Express projected outcomes in probabilistic terms
  • Empirical:Rely more on observations and data than theory

Attributes to be Cautious Of:

  • Specialized: Career dedicated to working on one or two great problems. Skeptical of the opinion of “outsiders”
  • Stalwart: Singular approach to problem solving. New data is used to refine the original model
  • Stubborn: Blames others or “bad luck” for mistakes and errors
  • Order-seeking: Expects things to abide by relatively simple governing relationships
  • Confident: Speak in terms of certainty
  • Ideological: Expects solutions to be a manifestation of some grander theory


The two lists outlined above signify that the “best” experts will be reluctant to make bold statements regarding  projected outcomes. This reluctance may be perceived as a “weakness”, as it violates laws of persuasion. Always be on your guard for Gurus preaching certainty as they are of course trying to sell you something!

Persuasion Tip #9: Display confidence [either real or faked] to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself, or at least appear as if you do, in order to get anyone else to believe

Win Bigly by Scott Adams

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