4 Ways to Defeat the Voice of Experience
The negative result of experience is a closed mind.
You think you can win in the present, because you won in the past. But, disaster waits for everyone who faces new challenges with business-as-usual strategies.
The voice of experience says, “We’ve always done it that way.”
Experienced warriors told *David to face Goliath using traditional strategies. Take a sword, shield, and armour and stand toe-to-toe with the giant. They knew it was suicide, but suggested it anyway.
Past success gives the illusion of competence in the present.
Experienced soldiers were unwilling to face the giant, but they thought they knew the secret to David’s success.
Experienced leaders feel they can tell others how to reach challenging goals, even though they’re aren’t doing it themselves.
Those who aren’t doing it, think they know how to do it.
Old methods never deliver unexpected results.
An inexperienced warrior defeated a towering giant because he was true to himself and used methods that made sense to him.
Plan to fail if you use tried and true methods to achieve unexpected results.
How to defeat the voice of experience:
- Realize past success blinds leaders to new methods.
- Invite outsiders into the conversation. Who thought shepherding mixed with warfare?
- Embrace unexpected methods. Exponential success demands unexpected methods. If you keep doing the same thing, you will achieve the same results.
- Remember the same people sitting around the same table deliver the same results.
Everyone laughed at David’s bravado because they judged him through the eyes of experience. They couldn’t imagine the power of a simple unexpected approach.
Let the people doing the job figure out the best way to do the job.
Great achievements are accomplished by people who do things their way, not someone else’s.
How might the voice of experience limit potential?
How might leaders defeat the limiting side of experience?
Powerful example! Experience guding is much better than experience dictating.
Thanks PA. Your use of the term guiding seems to expand the conversation and open opprotunities.
Yet another good post with a powerful & eye-opener message!
Known a live corporate situation where an experienced boss refused to accept the market based factual information to try out a new approach to selling. The result was good conflicts with a researcher and burn out. The boss had to leave the job with ‘I know the best’ approach with no readiness to think & act differently. It was more of a consumer centric approach, the pull strategy rather than push strategy in early 90’s!
The lesson learnt was to become a good listner, think differently & work on an innovative way to tackle the new challenging market forces. Also, never ever ignore the consumer voice who indicates that he needs to be treated better. Adaptability & Creativity are the best ways to remain successful by ‘I know better’ professionals.
I would not be so quick to discount experience. Experience used positively can enhance the future. Obviously, you as the author of this blog, have years of experience and that allows you to extrapolate for the future.
“Let the people doing the job figure out the best way to do the job.” Best sentence in the posting. This doesn’t happen enough.
And, when the people doing the job figure out the best – or a much better – way to do the job?
Then, leaders – including managers and supervisors – AUTHORIZE for those people to (a) use the best/better and much safer product and (b) to implement that best/better and much safer method. EG. Remediation and mitigation of life-threatening, high-accumulations of toxic black and green mold and mildew.
When does experience become wisdom? Experience is the part of leadership that guides the teaching to another. Experience is how we pass along what we have learned what works and what doesn’t. A good leaders experience should never box anyone in but offer guidance. Rejecting experience is foolish and selfish if it coming from a good leader. You must define your experience. Is it bad experience or good. That makes a huge difference. Does the individual have an open mind to change and success with all their experience? Experience by itself means very little. It’s how it is used and valued.
I was discussing years of experience with one of my mentors some years ago and he asked me a question that still resonates with me today. Is it really 15 years of experience or 1 year of experience 15 times? In my humble opinion experience can be very valuable if that experience is gained by continous learning. When the learning stops, experience in terms of time becomes less valuable.
This resonates so much in a church setting. We’re usually only ready for ‘comfortable’ change, and we’re asking ‘what did we do last year?’ all too often. Guide is a good word, rather than dictate.
While I would agree that doing things the ‘same old’ way often generates the ‘same old’ results, I think there is value in blending experience with creative, new solutions as well. To simply assume that the old way is never the best way, is just as dangerous as assuming that the old way is always the best way.
Folks in the trenches are not only the best to create the solution, but most often the first to recognize the need for one. I see my job as a leader to be in fostering an environment where constant improvement is expected and appreciated. Mix some experienced team members with some new, set some basic ‘ground rules,’ then turn them loose. Once they have a solution, review that as a, looking for potential opportunities and then openly discuss any that might exist.
If experience were not valuable, we’d all be disposable. It would be not only better, but cheaper, to turn over headcount each and every year.
Great, powerful post. It will absolutely challenge me to not so “knowingly” rely on my own experience. I think about Kodak. Where are they now? They made a conscious decision, based on their experience, not to enter the digital camera market in 1981. They never revisited that decision, and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Very experienced people “stayed the course” hoping things would change.
I also love the “experience guiding is better than experience dictating” comment above by paberryrn.
experience is our comfort zone, and growth only comes outside of it. We need to rely on experience to let us step into the unknown – and then use our new experience to lay the trail for others to follow.
When the voice of experience says “It doesn’t work”, ask “Why?”. It might not have worked back then for a reason that no longer applies (computer power, ease of commication, data interpretation or whatever). It might work now.
“Old methods never deliver unexpected results” – Actually, sometimes they do, and in science that is sometimes where you get progress. Progress in science isn’t always Eureka moments, but often it’s a “Hold on, what’s going on here?” moment when something doesn’t work the way it usually has, and you uncover something odd – and significant.
Everyone goes on about David fighting Goliath with only a sling. Records from the Roman period indicate that sling bullets were the last thing experienced, professional soldiers would discount or overlook. They were all but impossible to spot and dodge (unlike arrows), and even if they didn’t penetrate armour, they didn’t have to. Broken ribs and depressed skull fractures were just as effective.
Good leaders want their team to be as good as they are / were. Great leaders want their team to be better. Providing the space and environment to be different opens the door to be better. Great post…thank you.
Dan, I had the audacity in my travels years ago to ask why so many men in that region of the world grew beards. After a professor told me it was a cultural thing, he also jokingly said, “If there were wisdom in beards, all goats would be prophets.”
I think there’s something about “experience” in that joke, and “wisdom.” I think we all know experience can be a bad lesson and a bad teacher if it comes from “bad judgment.” And, if it does not reap wisdom, that experience can be our anchor—and for those in our midst–for many years to come.
A rather light-hearted example of this is a rural young guy I roomed with in my first year of college. His father was a highly successful multi-retail store owner, and one of his regular ardent beliefs which I heard him tell his son over and over again was: “Life is all about ass; you’re either covering it, laughing it off, kicking it, kissing it, busting it, trying to get a piece of it, or behaving like one.”
Imagine that ongoing “experience” in your life…and believing it from your dad. My roommate was always so torn between the anchor of his father’s maligned idea of life and his own need for greater moral experience. He ultimately told dad he was to study medicine and not business.
Life’s experiences are not to paralyze us, rather to help us discover who we are. Behind successful persons are a lot of successful surprises– after many unsuccessful experiments and unsuccessful years. Experience should be a guidepost…not a hitching post. I was once heard that experiences are savings which a miser puts aside; wisdom is an inheritance which a waster cannot exhaust.
Experience tells us what to do; confidence inspires us to do it.
It seems to me that whatever the topic, there are always quotes from Albert Einstein that apply. For this excellent post, here are three:
1. “The true measure of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
2. “We can’t expect to solve the problems of today with the same knowledge that led to their creation.”
3. “Insanity: Doing the same things over and over, expecting different outcomes.”
A voice of experience may be correct. The emphasis for all stakeholders (leaders, managers, individual contributors,…) should be on the word ‘may.’
A leader may have correctly matched their experience with the current context. Perhaps not.
An individual contributor may have correctly matched a pattern with the current context. Perhaps not. Their capabilities may be sufficient. Perhaps not.
A title with more wisdom for this post might be “Defeating a voice of experience when it is appropriate.” It would not be wise for any stakeholder to insist that any solution will work in every situation. The highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO) may be very influential but it should be validated in a context with requisite variety. The approach of a rockstar designer or developer may be insufficient.
Although some suggest ‘fail fast,’ it is not my recommended approach for a David versus Goliath situation. A better approach is to ensure that the warrior will have a reasonable chance to survive every encounter. David tested Saul’s armor and found that it was too heavy before he faced Goliath. He survived that test.
David selected the weapon and tactics that were familiar to him. He moved to the battle line (verse 48) but outside of Goliath’s killing zone. David tested his weapon and his skill from a distance that was safe for him. Goliath fell facedown on the ground (Verse 49). David completed his conquest using Goliath’s sword.
David designed the experiment. David survived the interaction and his hypothesis was validated. David survived and then thrived.
A reasonable individual can have an expectation that a voice of experience may be correct or almost correct. Often, some adaptation is required. If another individual has experience in another domain or context that may produce a successful outcome, they should test their hypothesis (option) under conditions where they are likely to survive the interaction. The synthesis of a novel approach may be necessary.
The best outcome is for the team/network to win together.
Creative thinking to solutions that deals in impromptu demands , may sometimes takes more than experience. Gone are the days that we can use the past remedies for today’s problems. It takes more than experience. The world has changed and full of uncertainties. In my opinion, younger generation still need to learn from the experienced staffs but at the same time, they need to improvise and start to be more innovative themselves. ‘Out of the box’ thinking. A combination of views from both the young and the old. We must all start listening!!!
I agree with you. Past success can not guarantee success in future. The tools and context may be different today. So, we need different tools and approaches. So, it is important to understand today’s context with the mindset we develop. Past mindset may not equip to deal with current challenges. I think dealing with our natural inclination is very important here. We tend to develop pride and ego when successes come on our way. So, it is important to question my thought process. And inculcating humility is the key.to overcome experience illusions.
One can also realize sometimes that past success is illusion. And we should make direction for bigger goals. The best way is to keep setting bigger goals every times we achieve goals.
This is how I put it: Stop feeding on old manna. There’s a good quality portion for each day.
Interesting topic. I would not be so quick to ignore the voice of the experienced if they have put in enough time to recognize what will work and what won’t work! Often, the experienced one is the one that has already “been there, done that” and they are able to bring a voice of reason or they bring to light the things that the inexperienced hadn’t thought of. I believe its the experienced folks that are holding a lot of businesses together right now – without them, disaster would be imminent in many cases!
You have to go trough failures to become successful
I think people form habits. They find one way of doing something, get in a comfort zone and don’t deviate from it. We need to be thinking of continuous improvements all the time, of better ways to handle day to day business more efficiently. It takes courage to step out of the comfort zone but if nobody ever did, nothing would ever change. We would be stuck, not growing.
Agree with Jose. When you do step out of the comfort zone, there is always the chance you could fail. But what if you don’t, what if you take it to another level you never even imagined was possible? If I am thinking “what if”, I would rather be brave and step out than tell myself “what if” because of fear.