- “There’s a famous old quip: ‘A lot of people in business say they have twenty years experience, when in fact all the really have is one year’s experience, repeated twenty times.’ It’s not just guys in business who fall into this trap, unfortunately. It happens just as often to people taking a less conventional path.” – Hugh MacLeod
Another year down. But is it another year added?
Hugh expands on this question in his post “How To Be Creative”…
- “#32. Allow your work to age with you – You get older faster than you think. Be ready for it when it happens. I have a friend. Call him Dan. When I first met Dan, he was a twenty-eight year old aspiring filmmaker, in a one-bedroom apartment down on New York’s Lower East Side, who liked to spend too much time in bars. The last time I saw him, he was a forty-one year old aspiring filmmaker, in a one-bedroom apartment down on New York’s Lower East Side, who likes to spend too much time in bars…It’s sad enough when you see it happen to a friend of yours. When it happens to you, it’s even worse. The good news is, it’s easy enough to avoid. Especially with experience. Suddenly you realize that you’re just not into the same things you once were. You used to be into staying up late all night, going to parties, now you’d rather stay in and read a book. Sure, it sounds boring, but hey, sometimes "boring" can be a lot of fun. Especially if it’s on your own terms. Just go with the flow and don’t worry about it. ESPECIALLY don’t worry about the people who ARE worrying about it. They’ll just slow you down.”
Despite all the things that twentysomethings have yet to learn, I’m still a big fan of hiring junior staff for even demanding, front-line position. They require support and training, but the energy and fresh perspectives that they bring usually more than make up for it. The new breed of Gen Xer’s are renowned for their inflated sense of entitlement, but I’m not sure whether this isn’t just a ‘sign of the times’ thing and not a generational thing. I encounter just as many forty-somethings who feel just as entitled to the big job/paycheck because of their age and experience. While I’m open to the life wisdom that years can add to one’s assets, I’m less impressed with someone’s two decades of domain experience. Partly because in this fast changing world, most specific experience more than 5 years old either repetitive (a la Hugh’s quote above) or simply obsolete. An obsolete experience is worse than no experience. Instead of looking at a problem with extra insight, you look at it with wrong insight (possibly compounded by extra conviction from your experience).
Of course, one key ingredient that turns twenty years of experience into something that add (rather than just repeats or worse yet, subtracts) is the learning factor. Learning from failures. Taking risks especially into the new domains.
May the New Year 2015 bring you many successes from risks well taken, and much growth from failures well learned from.
Your comment that more than five years experience is either repetitive or obsolete is very much on target. My first boss out of school used a great phrase about some of his more senior colleagues. He said that they suffered from “hardening of the categories.”
One leadership approach I used as former public company CEO was to give every senior or mid-management executive new responsibilities every 1-2 years. I may not have changed their core job, but I gave them enough new to do that they could not fall back into routines, and had to use their brains creatively.