According to Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth College, businesses often overestimate the value of experience. In fact, he says experience can actually be a liability during challenging times of change. From my standpoint, I’ve seen that exhibited many times, usually in the guise of “We’ve never done it that way before.” Or, “That would never work here.” I’m a huge supporter of the value of experience, but when you view the world exclusively from that perspective, it can be a liability. I was invited to meet with the leadership team from a major media ministry a few years ago, and although they were at a serious crisis point, I felt the ship could have been turned. But every time I made a recommendation, I heard the same response, “That would never work here.”
They could never tell me why it would never work. And these were ideas that had literally transformed other major organizations. But whatever I suggested, according to them, it would never work.
I soon realized that the problem was their experience. They had been at the wheel too long, and in their limited thinking, they could only see the world through the lens of what they had done before.
Be careful clinging to solutions of the past. During turbulent times of change, learn to step outside your own limited experience. Open up to the possibility that other ideas may be out there – ideas that could actually save the organization.
Do you have your own examples of where experience actually became an obstacle?
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