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Difference between skills & expertise

August 18, 2011

Many people don’t understand the thin line between skill and expertise. The difference between the two can be looked into three aspects. First, the inherent complexity of real-life expertise is higher than that of a skill, that is, expertise comprises more different capabilities and task constraints to be mastered. You can very well learn to work on Excel with the use of some simple functions but working on it by using macros or other complex functionalities needs some expertise. Second, expertise by definition is attributed to but a small number of people who excel in a given domain, whereas the capabilities and accomplishments associated with the concept of real life skills are believed to be within the reach of every normal individual. Everyone can learn to work on Oracle database but only few will have the expertise in it to be a Database Administrator. Third, skills and expertise differ with respect to their presumed durations of their acquisition processes: a skill can be acquired within weeks or even days while attaining expert level performance takes years or decades. You will have to devote much more time in order to gain expertise rather than just acquire a particular skill.

Usually people have many skills but expertise in only few domains/areas. Same is true for organisations. Even expertise in one area can prove to be a turnaround for an individual or an organisation. So focus on transforming the skill into an expertise. But it doesn’t mean that people should not strive for acquiring maximum skills. Multiple skills are always like the fruits on your tree, as many as you have, more beautiful the tree appears.

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