What Is Experience & How Can You Assess It?
By Pavlo Phitidis
No business is ever built on its own. You will need to work with people be they staff, suppliers, customers, funders, partners, consultants, mentors and the list goes on. Your ability to assess these collaborators experience as a business owner is therefore a vital capability. We delved into this topic with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show, on 702, this week, and outlined six different types of experience to consider:
An ex-CEO or Company Director holds a very specific type of experience, but that’s often linked to the resources they had at hand, which enabled them to do their job: power and budget. When placed into a different type of role, that sees them operating without those tools, they may not be able to perform to that level. Office Mart, for example, was a stationery and office supply provider, and sought to implement a turn-around strategy for their business. Calling upon the skills of someone who had held an important management position at a large company, he was placed to oversee and affect their turn-around strategy. Because his experience was developed in an entirely different context, his turnaround efforts failed. He had a great title but the experience he had gained in his former job was not contextually relevant in this one.
For me, truth is only found in action, and I learnt the fullness of this statement during my studies. As a young student, I completed a Degree called Building Sites. Conceptualised by the highly-reputed Ronnie Schloss, it combined three key areas of the construction industry: quantity surveying, architecture, and civil engineering. As Ronnie was selecting students to enter the second year of the degree course, he singled me out, and assigned me vacation work, whereby I had to learn the hands-on skills of construction – from laying bricks, and beyond. While he understood that I grasped the theory of construction, he knew that I had business acumen and ambitions, so I had to truly understand the real-life aspects and systems of construction. Without that knowledge in my pocket, I would’ve been doomed to fail.
Wisdom has two elements – foresight and insight, and one cannot exist without the other. If you are constantly wrapped up in your company’s day-to-day operations, you won’t be able to reflect upon, or assess, your growing business, and will lose out on gaining true insights into how it functions, or discover opportunities for change and development. Without insight, there can be no foresight.
Malcolm Gladwell’s formula of 10,000 hours is over-simplified, because spending that much time doing the same thing, only holds the same amount of weight as someone who has 500 hours’ experience. When assessing time experience, look at how someone has shifted direction, their action or their approach, as this tells you just how experienced they are in adapting to change.
What has worked in the past, won’t work in the future. The market, technology, and the world at large, is constantly shifting, and the way you used to do things may no longer be relevant to the way you do things now. When assessing environment experience, bear in mind the context from within which that experience was gained.
Working within the right context, and applying the skills you have, to the situation you find yourself in now, can be tough. Experience is useful and can be invaluable, but only if it is well harnessed. That’s why a ‘beginner’s mind’ – the Japanese call it ‘shoshen’- is imperative, because it enables you to be fully present and contextually in tune with the task at hand.
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