The Foreign Expert:
A clear illustration lies in our great propensity to ask for “expert” opinion from overseas. If we want to fatten our pigs we send for an expert. If we want to ‘change the school curriculum we send for an expert. If we want to build a dam we send for an expert. There can be no objection in principle to the use of experts; but there seem to be certain very important guidelines to the proper choice and use of them. To begin with, in the employment of “experts” it is wise to examine very carefully the mouth of the gift-horse. Free experts are often more free than expert. Secondly, it is nearly always better to send a good local man in search of information and advice than to invite someone in to give it. The visiting expert is usually a stranger to the country and its people; and if he is really any good, usually ends up having learned far more than he taught. Thirdly, the proper way to use an expert is to tell him the problem and ask his advice; the improper way is to invite him to state the problem for you in the first place. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, half-a-dozen individual experts, no matter how well-qualified and how helpful each may be in his particular job, are very likely to be less useful than a team of lesser geniuses who work in collaboration. At least the team may be expected to produce one policy and one design rather than six conflicting ones.