The end of Experience?

“Experience” has for a very long time been seen as a prerequisite for senior management positions. In many respects however, it is now a hangover.

Much of what was gained in “experience” is now subverted by easy access to knowledge and other people. Back then, people could make an entire career by eking out the knowledge from undergraduate training inside highly structured bureaucracies, supplemented by training on how to run the machine that was the organisation.

With knowledge doubling every day, the challenge we face is not to accumulate it, but filter it. Learning what no longer serves us, and holds us back in a previous era is as important as being able to identify the signal in the tsunami of noise that is presented to us daily.

The certainty and regularity we have all been encouraged to seek no longer exists. The gentle paddle in the boating pond has been replaced by constant grade 5 white water and we have to go with the flow.

The nature of what constitutes important experience has changed. Experience now is about our ability to handle grade 5 white water. To identify the signal amidst the noise, and to inspire and support those doing the paddling.

Looking around, many organisations are substantially run by bewildered boating pond paddlers, trying to lead and manage gen 3.0 talent with an entirely different worldview and set of aspirations. They are talented, mobile and driven by a welcome set of values around people and the planet.

The rate of change of technology, politics, and ecosystems of every sort means that valid experience in many areas can be measured in months. Anything more can suggest learning atrophy. We need those we work with to have one foot in functional excellence for what is needed today, with the other firmly planted in a curiosity about the emerging unknown which will power tomorrow.

It’s a tough call for those with mortgages and a career based on a different time, but being a tough call doesn’t make it something we can avoid.

I don’t think it matters whether we’re twenty or sixty. It’s not a matter of chronology, it’s a mindset thing.

Curiosity, confidence and a clear sense of purpose are the qualities that differentiate us from AI (for now at any rate).

Being curious and open to uncertainty is a choice we can make, and increasingly, a survival skill.

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