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Brain surgery or Restaurant review?

Planted February 01, 2021

I’m not a fan of certification where it is unnecessary. I feel that often these documents and processes are artificial gatekeepers to maintain the status quo.

There are times when it is necessary though. I found this heuristic recently and think it is helpful.

A restaurant review in a newspaper can be very interesting to read. It often explores the history of the food, the culture, the growth of the restauranteur and the venue. A Yelp or Google review is more likely to tell me if I’m actually going to enjoy the food. The internet lowers the barrier for sharing and publishing. The wisdom of the crowd can be aggregated and I can benefit from that.

I’m happy to benefit from these effects in any knowledge based pursuit. I care about the opinion of anyone who has eaten in this restaurant, just as I care about the experience of new learners, regular drivers and casual gamers. The internet makes their views accessible and available.

For brain surgery, I don’t just want the doctor who knows the facts though. I don’t want someone who has crowd sourced the best approach and is active about it on social media. I want reassurance that this individual has practice and skills. In this situation, credentials play the role of reassuring me. This individual has had the years of practice and training - they have absorbed the physical and mental skills, the scalpel and the textbook.

I do want my doctor to keep up with peer reviewed studies in their field and to be following the latest developments. But that’s not enough.

So, when I think about whether a certification is actually adding something to the transaction I’m involved in, I come back to this metaphor.

Is this more like brain surgery or restaurant reviews? I imagine this changes based on your circumstances and your current level of need.

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