The problem with experience

A contrarian observation this week:

Tom Peters posted a short video on the Problem with Perfection (see below). We have long taught service personnel who do our Customer Service training that it is impossible to exceed expectations. Tom Peters has just vindicated our approach.






And all of this got me thinking about the problem I have with experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy to blow my own experience trumpet as warranted.

But we have the opportunity to train many very experienced employees.  But as you work closely with so many of them, you realise that they have been short-changed by their employers and they don’t really have 20 years’ experience, but 1 years’ experience 20 x over.

They learned to do the minimum at the ‘sit-next-to-nellie’ school. They learned a few procedural matters = the way we do things around here. But they never mastered the underlying principles, and consequently they have never been able to add value to the business by making suggestions/ improvements.

On a more strategic level, your experience predisposes you to keep repeating what has always worked in the past. It blinds you to the new imperatives.

Because, to continue to be successful, you need to abandon past successes

So one needs experience in knowing how and when to change, not just familiarity with processes. (You need that too, but it is not going to prepare you for the impending changes.)

You get that experience in any of the following ways:

  • by going through change repeatedly & looking for patterns
  • by risking untried methods
  • by wilfully changing things in small ways (much like the fire fighters do back burning)

You don’t get it by hanging on to what worked and resting on the laurels of your experience. Success is addictive, but very few addictions work out well in the long run.

Don’t use your experience as a shield to defend against change, use it as a machete to chop a new path.