Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > experience is as to intensity and not as to duration – thomas hardy

experience is as to intensity and not as to duration – thomas hardy

Quite rightly experience is valued. When we are recruiting an employee or engaging a contractor we look for relevant experience, and when we look at ourselves we talk about having paid our dues; done the hard yard and so on.

All of this is fine because experience does count for something; it has value as a commodity that has been earned over time and those that have it are fully entitled to trade on it. Our market value may fluctuate, but when combined with a mix of talent and ability to make best use of our experience we have a product that we can market at whatever rate that the market will pay.

When we are considering someone’s experience with a view to engaging them, maybe as an employee or as a supplier, there are metrics around that experience that we will take into account. Perhaps the depth of experience, or specific subject relevance, or possibly how recent the experience. We will test these as part of our decision making process and come to some conclusion.

In doing this we are applying our own experience to help make that decision; experience is all around us and helps us through every day. I can remember events that, because of the location, I can firmly date to when I was 3 so they go back 55 years. All of those early experiences; climbing things led to the realisation that falling off hurts – learnt the hard way, who needs risk assessments?

And that brings me to my point on experience. All of us that have any at some point had none. We had to start somewhere. The journey we have taken to learn whatever skill that we hang our experience on we rightly prize. Hey, we’ve paid our dues.

But experience can sometimes blind us. Those lessons that falling out of a tree will probably hurt tend to put you off doing it. All joking aside, experience is about risk assessment and we use that experience as judgement, but it can make you more risk averse. I wrote the other week around a Goethe quote; “One never goes so far as when one doesn’t know where one is going” and took one interpretation of that to be that you can go a lot further when you take the blind leap of faith: You have no pre-conceived expectations will to limit what is possible for you to achieve.

Pushing the boundaries may be built on an element of experience, but if you’re going somewhere new then you are learning, taking a journey into what, for you, is the unknown and may be the unknown for all of us, at least in terms of a new way of doing things.

When we are putting together teams we look for experience as a key ingredient, but I can recall many teams in a big corporate environment where I have inherited, or been allocated, people rather than being able to choose them. In almost all cases they strengthened the team because of what they brought to it and one of those qualities was a relative naivety. They would question things that we, with our experience, took for granted. They would challenge our thinking and, even if we did not change as a result, we were stronger from having taken that look. And whilst they did not have much experience in common with us they did have their own experience to bring to the party and for us to learn from.

We should be willing to look at alternative experience as strength rather than weakness and take that chance on people.

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  1. June 27, 2011 at 7:42 am

    This is a good article and reminds me of a few things in business and life that are worth keeping in mind.

    Experience can simply be the same thing repeated many times over without thought or examination if it is the best way. Yes the task may get a reasonable result but is it the best result? An inexperienced person as you point out may see a better way or at least offer an opinion that is worth trying. Times also change and experience can mean “stuck in a rut” and therefore it is not always worth as much as we may think.

    One sketch that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore performed had the line, “I have learned from my mistakes, so much so that I can repeat them exactly!”

    Food for thought?

    Roland Millward

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