Guiding cleverness

The Management of Expertise
April 4, 1997

The spread of information technology and the globalisation of markets have increased the importance of expertise and so also the demand for those who can offer it. As this book cogently argues, the effective management of expertise is becoming critical to the survival of organisations. Technological and organisational developments have ensured that expertise is now more widely distributed through organisations and society. And traditional prescriptions, equating the management of expertise with the management of professionals, are no longer adequate.

This book, a collection of nine papers edited by Harry Scarborough, reviews how organisations are facing up to the challenge of developing effective strategies to manage expertise. Each paper explores a different aspect of the management of human, rather than paper or computer-based, expertise, and together they identify the critical issues. In the following chapters, this framework is used as the basis for an empirical analysis of management in a variety of contexts. The coherence of this book is strengthened by the inclusion of helpful editorials at the beginning of each chapter.

The three major sections cover societal perspectives on knowledge, expertise and technological innovation, and, finally, institutional change and the management of expertise. The contributions are from a variety of authors, each of whom is engaged in active research. The most interesting aspect of this book is in its variety: in the contexts used and the issues explored. Examples of the management of expertise are taken from a wide range of industrial and occupational settings, including the financial services sector, manufacturing, consultancies and the National Health Service. The impact of expertise on the design of technological systems, and the diffusion of technologies is ex-plored, in addition to a review of the wider political and organisational implications of expertise.

The target audience for Scarborough's book is MBA students. The scope and content of many MBA programmes reflect the importance of a number of new challenges facing organisations in the 1990s. MBA modules on the management of change, innovation and expertise are commonplace these days and so textbooks covering such topics are much needed.

It is debatable, though, whether a collection of writings like this is the most appropriate way to target MBA students. Many, familiar with traditional textbooks, may find it hard work distilling the really critical issues from the academic commentary. While the thoroughness of the annotations and referencing make the book appealing to researchers, many students may find the academic style and language daunting. Despite that, it is still a book well worth the effort.

Neil Doherty is lecturer in management information systems, Loughborough University Business School.

The Management of Expertise

Author - Harry Scarborough
ISBN - 0 333 56869 9
Publisher - Macmillan
Price - £45.00
Pages - 245

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