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6 Examples of Expert Culture

An expert culture is a society, organization or institution that is run by specialists. This has negative connotations whereby it implies a lack of generalist talent and big picture thinking. The following are illustrative examples.

Not My Job

A hands-off culture whereby every role in an organization has specific inputs and outputs such that people aren't flexible or responsible for the overall success of things. For example, a software developer who notices a major security flaw who does nothing because they aren't a security expert.

Bureaucratic Culture

A culture with well defined processes, procedures, controls and policies such that it may fail to handle dynamic situations well. For example, a vehicle manufacturer that asks a customer to resubmit their order 4 times over 3 months because of detection of exceptions in the order by various bureaucratic processes. Such a process may be mature and controlled but completely fails the customer and brand.


Scientism is science as an ideology whereby it is viewed as more certain, infallible and applicable than it is in reality. This shouldn't be confused with science itself which is founded on challenge such as peer review. Scientism implies intractable groupthink or misleading claims vaguely based on science. For example, experts that claim to be able to centrally control an economy based on the science of economics whereby they may overstate the certainty and applicability of economic theory.

Myopic Optimization

A society, organization or team that is overfocused on optimizing a single number or a small set of numbers such that thousands of other variables can go astray. For example, a bank that is focused on increasing sales of a particular product that loses sight of customer experience, risk, compliance, ethical and reputational issues.

Cold Logic

Cold logic is the failure to consider humans in human decisions. For example, a doctor with a technical understanding of medicine who fails to communicate well with patients, to take their concerns seriously or to adapt to their needs.

Division of Labor

The division of labor is an industrial-era productivity innovation that organizes work into highly specialized roles. This is unquestionably efficient in simple scenarios such as a production line that wants to produce widgets as cheaply as possible. More complex pursuits benefit from generalists who understand processes end-to-end. For example, a software organization dominated by specialists that develops unreliable and unusable software and services because nobody in the organization understands the firm's architecture, customer needs or the root cause of problems.

Glittering Generalities

In some cases, expert cultures are based on glittering generalities and thought-terminating cliches such as "best practice" and "evidence based." They can also be perpetuated by biases such as the invalid assumption that anything that is based on a measurement, calculation, standard or expert advice is logical and correct.

Industrial Thinking

Expert cultures can result when you apply industrial-era approaches to a more complex knowledge economy. In an industrial economy, it made sense to train an employee to fix a single type of machine or complete a single step in a process. This can be problematic in a knowledge economy. For example, a business process conducted by 12 teams of specialists with no individual in the entire organization who can accurately explain the end-to-end process or why it feels so broken.

Strategy vs Recommendations

Specialists can only offer recommendations in their sphere of specialization and may have a limited overall understanding of the complexity of systems, structures, processes and human factors. Generalists are required for end-to-end tasks such as mission, vision, strategy, decision making, problem solving, organizational culture, influencing, storytelling, stakeholder management, customer experience, branding, process improvement and structural design.
Overview: Expert Culture
Definition (1)
A society, organization or institution that is run by specialists.
Definition (2)
A society, organization or institution that is dominated by specialists such that big picture systems thinking, root cause analysis and design thinking isn't adequately applied to complex strategic and operational issues.
Culture Failure
Organizational Failure
Related Concepts

Organizational Culture

This is the complete list of articles we have written about organizational culture.
Adaptive Performance
Bias For Action
Business Strategy
Catfish Management
Change Fatigue
Change Management
Corporate Governance
Corporate Identity
Corporate Image
Corporate Memory
Corporate Narcissism
Creativity Of Constraints
Culture Fit
Culture Of Fear
Curiosity Drive
Decision Making
Digital Maturity
Disability Etiquette
Employee Behavior
Employee Dissatisfaction
Employee Expectations
Ethical Climate
Expert Culture
Failing Upwards
Failure Is Not An Option
Genchi Genbutsu
Goal Setting
Heliotropic Effect
Human Error
Human Factors
Humble Leadership
Hygiene Factors
Internal Branding
Internal Environment
Intrinsic Motivation
Knowledge Loss
Knowledge Management
Leadership Style
Lessons Learned
Malicious Compliance
Management By Absence
Management By Walking Around
Market Culture
Matrix Management
Negative Culture
Negative Selection
Nudge Theory
Office Politics
Organizational Capital
Organizational Complexity
Organizational Culture
Organizational Resilience
Organizational Structure
Organizing Principle
Performance Management
Petty Authority
Political Correctness
Professional Conduct
Quality Of Life
Red Tape
Resistance To Change
Satellite Office
Self-Organizing Team
Shadow Of The Leader
Strong Culture
Team Culture
Tolerance For Disagreement
Trained Incapacity
Unspoken Rule
Work Culture
Work Environment
Work Ethic
Work-Life Balance
Working Conditions
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