How to Overcome the Voice of Experience
The negative impact of experience is a closed mind.
The story of David and Goliath in the Hebrew Bible illustrates the power of embracing new methods when facing unexpected challenges.
The voice of experience:
Failure waits when you use tried and true strategies to face new challenges.
The voice of experience told David to face Goliath using traditional strategies – a sword, shield, and armor. But standing toe-to-toe with the Giant would have been disastrous.
Experienced soldiers were afraid to face Goliath. They knew traditional battle tactics would fail. Yet they told David to stick with traditional methods.
Experience believes it knows how others should face new challenges.
- is the enemy when it closes your mind.
- blinds to new ways of seeing.
- over-values current skills and under-values new approaches.
- believes traditional approaches are transferable.
- limits your ability to assess new challenges.
Traditional methods never produce unexpected results. David faced his challenge with a sling-shot, not a traditional sword and shield.
Experience laughed at David’s bravado because they judged him through the lens of tradition. They knew the Giant would pulverize David because they couldn’t imagine the power of new strategies. But David won.
3 reasons David won:
- He went all-in. David ran up hill at the Giant.
- He used an unexpected strategy that exploited Goliath’s weakness. (Speed defeated strength.)
- He had higher purpose. For David, the conflict was spiritual.
- Conformity destroys the power of diversity.
- Fitting in is dangerous in untested waters.
- Past success makes you believe you can win using traditional methods. But traditional methods achieve traditional results.
What’s dangerous about the voice of experience?
How might experienced leaders open their minds?
I think the danger of experience is that we don’t take time to understand how the situation has changes. We just do what we did last time and think all is good,
Take a few minutes and think about what’s different, what;s new, what hasn’t changed etc. What little changes have occurred? Have any big changes occurred? What is the other side expecting?
What new changes are needed in my approach?
Thanks Paul. Your comment is so helpful. Just take a few minutes to think about how situations are changing. You added useful questions!
One way to take time to understand might be to ask new employees to describe the situation in their own words.
As with each situation they can be similar or totally switched, we need to observe and see the difference not all “roads or ships travel straight courses , as the same is for our ,life’s journey.
Learning the obstacles and how to get around them!
Experience plays a role in many thinks, we just need to look at others views as well, not always written in stone, be open to feedback, we may just learn another better way!
Thanks Tim. “We may just learn a better way!” Wouldn’t that be great?
We might think we know and understand, but sometimes if it looks like a duck it’s actually a chicken.
The writings on “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman also weigh in here, whereby we use System 1 thinking (fast) and arrive at conclusions quickly and save brain sugar. Ecologically sound, but often not optimal. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 and the bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much is the ball?
Fast thinking arrives at the obvious answer quickly – $.10 — but some additional thinking will find that the ball costs a nickle and that the two of them combined are the dollar ten total.
The OTHER operating issue is the idea of “unlearning.” THAT is one of the very most difficult things anyone can accomplishing, the unlearning of what we know when new information is available.
Perspective, shared thinking, deeper reflection and other strategies are all useful ones.
Thanks Dr. Scott. Gotta love Kahneman’s work. You got me thinking about UNlearning.
I will utilize this statement as a starting point, “He used an unexpected strategy that exploited Goliath’s weakness. (Speed defeated strength.)” What I’ve found over say the last 25 years is that traditional approaches to challenges just do not produce results that are sustaining. Everything moves so fast these days you just have to “think outside the box” and “choose a different road” in what you do. Old styles, old methods seem to be just that old, but knowledge, communication and marketing your solutions have changed and those that succeed take the chance to do differently along the pathway. Obstacles have always been there but an approach (looking forward) needs to be different and more creative. The real challenge is IMHO not so much sustaining the different pathway approach but passing along that approach to the Ms and X’s in the work force in a manner that makes sense and can look forward.
Thanks Roger. You sure said a mouth full. You wrote, “Obstacles have always been there but an approach (looking forward) needs to be different and more creative.”
One thing all successful leaders do is turn toward the future. Forward-looking curiosity, in particular, is essential. It’s too easy to get sucked into backward thinking. Maybe because it’s familiar and feels predictable.
Hi Dan and all,
Interesting topic! Maybe one important step then is to question the nature of a problem from the outset. Is it one that can be approached by some of the existing things under the sun? Or something that requires a new approach. I ask my colleagues to streamline as much as possible on the routine issues that should be solved without much drama or reinvention, in order to save time and brain to address other upcoming challenges that will only be successfully addressed with a plan that hasn’t been written yet. Asking the question might show staff where to put their brain power, with the realization “our experience probably won’t yield a winning strategy in this situation”
Thanks Cate. Yes, consistent performance requires systems and repetition. In one sense, high performance requires us to NOT be creative. You might say that high performance in routine situations is boring, even it it does take high energy.
Very good post this morning, Dan. Thank you.
Thank you Sgt.
Dan, Experience will echo the 7 famous last words of a dying organization, company, church, etc.,
“We’ve never done it that way before!”
So true Dan, thank you, loved the topic and learnt so much.
Well said Dan. In such a changing global environment your words should strike home for all leaders. At the same time, experience can – and should – play an important role in decision-making, as long as lessons learned from these experiences get applied within the current context. From my “experience” the problems arise when lip service is given to these lessons, yet actions are driven by old, tired habits. It takes real leadership to ensure that actions marry words. I believe experienced leaders open their minds when either 1) they see higher echelons of leaders leading the “new” way, or 2) they allow themselves to be driven by curiosity and explore external perspectives, or have their perspectives challenged. The Status Quo is a resilient beast – but it can be bested :). Thanks for the great article!
Time evolves, circumstances change. What has been applied yesterday cannot give the same outcome today. That’s what innovation and most importantly disruption stand for.
Thanks so much Mr. Rockwell, for this beautiful post.
Danielle Alice Desanges Aucéane
THIAM MÉKÀ de GOGUENHEIM