Re-thinking expertise: The Skill Portfolio account of experts

In part two of this four-part series, we revisit Gary Klein’s discussion of emerging and rapidly changing phenomena, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these patterns have provided new insights about the nature of expertise.

In Gary’s recent essay on, he challenged the dichotomous standard of expertise — the idea that either a person is an expert or they are not an expert. Gary highlighted his work with Daniel Kahneman (Kahneman and Klein, 2009) and the concept of fractionated expertise as a way to describe how expertise can develop in rapidly-changing contexts, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Gary proposed a new paradigm for describing expertise based on a portfolio of various skills. An individual’s expertise may be described based on the level and variety of skills she or he has developed. General skills that experts might possess can fall under five categories: perceptual-motor skills, conceptual skills, management skills, communication skills, and adaptation skills. Though these skills are largely independent, some skills might hold more relevance in certain domains. The emphasis in this model is not necessarily on the skills themselves, but the significance of each individual’s combination of unique skills. For additional descriptions of each skill and real-world examples, read Gary’s original essay.  

Our next post in this series will describe how traditional training methods can fall flat in rapidly changing situations.