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  • Published: 29 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241392041
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $35.00


Understanding the Path to Mastery

The expert on experts shows that while the outcome is always different, the journey is always the same

What do lace makers share with pulmonary surgeons? Saville Row tailors with molecular scientists? Jazz musicians with fighter pilots? Seemingly, they have little in common, other than being skilled at what they do. But the expert on experts, Professor Roger Kneebone, has spent his life finding the points of connection. As he shows, while the outcome is always different, the journey to expertise is always the same.

From 'doing time' as an Apprentice, knowing nothing and learning by copying how things are already done, through setting out on your own as a Journeyman, developing your own voice and taking responsibility for your work, to finally becoming a Master and refining your knowledge through passing it on to future generations, Kneebone articulates a path we're all following - and there's comfort in locating yourself, understanding how far there is to go, and seeing how far you've come.

Drawing on cutting-edge research, including his own work with a variety of extraordinary experts from taxidermists to neurosurgeons, and a tradition of learning established in medieval workshops, in this ground-breaking book, Professor Kneebone reveals with colour and panache the symbiotic system that creates and sustains experts, whatever their field, and explains how you can become one yourself, whether you're learning a language, giving a presentation, or simply becoming the person you want to be.

  • Published: 29 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241392041
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $35.00

Praise for Expert

Roger Kneebone is a legend

Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters

The doctor stitching together medicine and art


Roger Kneebone has an insatiable desire to understand what makes people tick and for years has scratched this itch by bringing together countless interesting people to share their experience and knowledge. This book on experts is a wonderful manifestation of what he has learnt. If you want to do anything better, from surgery to embroidery, you can learn something from this book

Christopher Peters FRCS, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Upper GI and General Surgeon, Imperial College London

Roger Kneebone describes a journey that has no short cuts and no end. He tracks the inside story of becoming an expert, documenting a time line that stretches from the state of knowing nothing to passing on the wisdom of a lifetime. He draws out common themes between his experiences as a medical student, surgeon, GP, educator, academic, harpsichord player and sometime juggler with those of men and women working creatively in design studios, workshops and performance spaces, all of them now experts in their own fields. His refutation of the view that experts are an irrelevant, 'useless elite' is compelling and chilling in equal measure. Whisper it quietly, but post COVID-19, there is a growing realisation that experts do matter. I wish this book had been available when I was a student - it is full of wisdom, insight, humanity and encouragement. We should all aim to cross the 'ha-ha'

Susan Standring, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, King's College London

Roger Kneebone is our foremost expert on expertise. Expert is a desperately important book at a moment when we've begun to wonder just what we might still be good at

Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection

In a world awash with knowledge, we are in danger of forgetting what it means to be wise. Where knowledge arms us against the onslaughts of the world, wisdom disarms. It takes the risk opening up, to listen and attend, not presuming we already know. Wisdom puts others before ourselves. In this superbly written, passionately argued and very necessary book, Roger Kneebone contends that wisdom, more than knowledge, is the mark of the expert. In whatever vocation, as he shows us, becoming expert is a never-ending, lifelong task. But anyone can commit to it. Those who do should be an example to us all

Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen

My time spent studying and working in Japan has left me with a deep appreciation for the importance of skill and the mystery of its acquisition. How do we navigate that path from knowing nothing to being able to pass on precious knowledge and experience to the next generation? Roger Kneebone is a supremely thoughtful and sensitive companion on that journey.

Rebecca Salter RA, President of Royal Academy of Arts

Vividly practical

Andrew Robinson, Nature

Fascinating and inspiring

Financial Times

Examines the ubiquitous, but understudied, process of becoming an expert

Richard Webb, New Scientist

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