As a kid, I loved to watch the Sunday morning reruns of the Basil Rathbone version of Sherlock Holmes episodes on Channel 9. The visual Holmes then led me to the literary Holmes written, of course, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Holmes character, now over 125 years old, has become a cultural icon. Guinness World Records has consistently listed Sherlock Holmes as the "most portrayed movie character," with more than 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films. That includes Robert Downey, Jr.; and a just-announced movie in production starring Sir Ian McQuillen. And, of course, a number of Sherlock Holmes apps.

But what intrigued me was not the entertainment aspect, but Holmes the expert. That is to say, what expert qualities did Holmes have?

In Holmes view, it was Deduction and Analysis. In a Study in Scarlet, he reminds us:

“Like all other arts, the Science of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it."

But how to get there?

That question has been the subject of academic studies that used the Sherlock Holmes character to illustrate expert processes including the role of perception, as well as the nature and influence of expert knowledge.

I’m neither an academic nor a psychologist, and these studies were too dense for me to get through.

Marketing expert Michael Parker provides a practical framework when says you need to develop to hone these skills:

  • Intuition
  • Observation
  • Listening
  • Logic
  • Humility
  • Open-Mindedness

If you want to learn more about how to think like Holmes and apply it to your business, here are two books for you to get started:

It is, after all, elementary. It just takes time and effort.
Jerry Kalish is an EBA Advisory Board member and President of National Benefit Services, Inc., a Chicago-based third party administrator. He is a Guest Lecturer at John Marshall School of Law LLM Program in Employee Benefits and serves on the Great Lakes IRS Advisory Council for Tax Exempt and Government Entity Plans. Jerry has been publishing The Retirement Plan Blog since 2006. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter.


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