The Arrogance of Experience

The Arrogance of Experience

The speed of change is accelerating. Don’t believe me, read Thomas L. Friedman’s latest book, Thank You for Being Late. This fact is the biggest opportunity or threat to leadership teams around the globe. As a member of the C-Suite, your ability to handle change, that is accelerating, will determine your survival.

Why wouldn’t you be able to handle this change?

Eric “Astro” Teller. CEO of Google’s X research and development lab, which produced Google’s self-driving car tried to explain to Tom Friedman in his new book. Teller drew a curve plotting rate of change (y-axis) against Time (x-axis) to demonstrate that the curve of technology change has outpaced human adaptability, leaving us queasy and disoriented. As Teller puts it, technology platforms are evolving to their next phase in five to seven years but our adaptation rates as humans might take 10 to 15 years!

Another way to think of it as outlined in Tom’s book, by Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk – creativity becomes, in part, about asking the best questions. Because of the speed of the technology change, experienced managers need to be careful to park their ego at the door. These managers need to remain curious. They need to recognize that whilst the years of study, the years of experience are valuable, it may not be enough to keep your business competitive.

Some experience, skill sets, knowledge never age

  1. Once you understand the concept of double-entry accounting, you are set for a generation
  2. Once you understand how to tell the time, you’re probably fine for a generation
  3. The basic rules of physics you learned in your science degree are probably still relevant.

Some experience dies over time (and needs refreshing)

  1. Understanding what your customers need can dramatically change over time
  2. Understanding your competitive edge will dramatically change over time
  3. Cobol, the software language designed in 1959 had its moment in the sun, but programmers know they need to stay current if their skills are to remain in demand.
  4. Practicing law is a cherished profession but lose touch with the changing legislation and you become ineffective.
  5. Practicing medicine demands that your knowledge be refreshed.

It’s important as leaders that we develop our careers, our business and our personal skills. Today more than ever we must question our assumptions. We must audit the signals. Our experience can be a liability if we close minds to changing patterns, technology, and generational needs. We need to recognize the need to constantly learn and adapt. We need to be open to the idea that our experience and skills have sell by dates. It sounds exhausting, but once you adopt that open and curious mindset I believe it becomes easier over time.

We all need to accept that the knowledge and skills we learn are only a foundation for future towers of knowledge. Don’t let experience form an “arrogance” barrier to developing your skills, whether you are a first time manager or an 86 year old leader of a large conglomerate.

TPP ian operational consultancy that scales businesses organically and by acquisition. Our biggest added value? We align effort with strategy.Working on the right stuff is a game changer. We work alongside your leadership team to deploy our methodology and playbooks to implement a rich process of discovery, analysis and action. We transfer our know-how over time to your team, maximizing their performance. Scaling is not the same as sales growth. There’s more to it than that.

 

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