One of the biggest advantages of being your own boss is that you get the chance to do stuff that you enjoy doing rather than stuff that you have to do. Incidentally, that is also one of the bigger challenges of being your own boss but we will leave that for now.
Every year for the last three years I have had the privilege of being involved in a summer school which is held at a university conference venue for the UK Electronics Skills Foundation. Over 50 undergraduates in the electronics industry gather for an intense week of development, fun and learning. It has become one of the most enjoyable events of my year. Why? Because I get to mix and work with and teach and learn from a lot of very bright, keen and very intelligent young people. What they lack in experience they more than make up for in terms of enthusiasm, open-mindedness and willingness to learn.
Often the young and the inexperienced get a rough deal. I have seen several examples of job adverts recently demanding experience and I understand the desire to employ people for top jobs who have already made their mistakes elsewhere so that our organisation is less exposed, but being experienced and being set in our ways are often only separated by a hair’s breadth and I often wonder about the relative value of experience when compared to an open mind and enthusiasm. And then there is that age-old debate about how people get experience if businesses are only prepared to recruit people who are already experienced.
I have always believed that an open mind and the willingness and ability to learn will trump experience any day of the week. Tim Gallwey put it best when he observed that “High performers are people who simply learn faster.” In ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’.
The expanded quote is worth repeating here. “What is required is the belief that learning and performing are one and the same. High performers are people who simply learn faster. We learn faster when we pay attention and see the world for what it really is, not for what it should have been. Learning then becomes a function of awareness more than instruction, it is seeing clearly what is happening around you, seeing it without judgement and without an instinct to control and shape all that you touch.”
Willing and capable of learning
Very often young folk or people new to a role are willing and capable of learning in a way that older people are not. Thomas Szasz wrote that “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”
I understand that youth doesn’t always mean an ability to learn and an open mind in the same way that I understand that age and experience doesn’t always mean the opposite. The willingness and ability to learn has to be one of the greatest gifts we can possess and one that should be constantly and relentlessly nurtured whatever our age.
Being new, naive and clueless can be an asset
The author Liz Wiseman, in her book ‘Rookie Smarts’ argues that “experience can be a curse. Careers stall, innovation stops, and strategies grow stale. Being new, naïve, and even clueless can be an asset. For today’s knowledge workers, constant learning is more valuable than mastery.”
I wonder where you stand in this debate. Do you have the courage and the skills to nurture rookies in your industry and in your business? To take advantage of their naivety and enthusiasm? To manage the inevitable downsides to taking advantage of the considerable upsides?
Come along to our next seminar ‘Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Business Books’ on 19th September at Emirates Riverside, Chester-Le-Street.