When is not knowing more valuable than knowing? When does experience become a deterrent? What value does experience hold in a culture of perpetual beta? Is stubborn experience the enemy of innovation?

Why Novices Actually Outperform Veterans in the Modern Workplace

As work cycles spin faster and faster, professionals are continuously faced with never before seen challenges and uncharted territory. As work accelerates, our capacity for learning must keep pace. The shifting landscape of work is forcing us to approach work, no matter your age, as if we were a rookie.

A rookie mindset is the key to faster learning, increased self-awareness, and persisting through failure.

People often find themselves operating at their best when they are a rookie--new to an undertaking, doing something for the first time. Liz Wiseman, President of The Wiseman Group and author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, believes that a rookie mindset will be an imperative skill-set for any future professional.

Related Read: How Lazy Millennials Are Transforming Hard Work

After studying 400 workplace scenarios, comparing how rookies versus veterans tackled work assignments, Wiseman arrived at some compelling and countercultural insights about learning. She analyzed the data by performance level, looking for the key differentiators between how rookies and veterans approached their work, and the situations under which they excelled. Wiseman defined a rookie as someone who had never done that type of work and a veteran as someone who had previous experience with that type of work, both regardless of their age.

According to Wiseman, here are 12 reasons rookies trump veterans in the new world of work:

  1. Rookies listen more and learn faster.
  2. Rookies bite off smaller pieces of work.
  3. Rookies are 4x more likely than veterans to ask for help.
  4. Rookies seek out expertise 40 percent more often than veterans. 
  5. Rookies inject a spirit of fun into everything they do at work.
  6. Rookies have significantly higher levels of self-awareness than veterans. 
  7. Rookies are 12 percent more likely than veterans to persist in the face of failure. 
  8. Rookies are 2x more likely than veterans to believe that they had something to learn.
  9. Rookies tend to deliver more timely solutions despite having a steeper learning curve. 
  10. Rookies work cautiously and minimize risk by frequently checking in with stakeholders. 
  11. Rookies are more attuned to politics, although veterans possess greater political savvy. 
  12. Rookies were 40 percent more likely than veterans to work harder and put in longer hours in response to pressure or scrutiny. (Veterans were 30 percent more likely to feel debilitating or significant pressure not to fail.)

While these findings are not age dependent, it's safe to assume that many of today's Millennials operate like rookies. A rookie mentality is natural for Millennials due to their limited experience as working professionals and because of the high flux world they grew up in that demanded adaptability. Today's information and knowledge is widely accessible and no longer concentrated among a select few.

Related Read: The World's Greatest Living Coach Gives Game-Changing Advice On Leading Millennials

For all the veterans with valuable experience, Wiseman encourages you to, "renew your mind and skills and combine your hard-won wisdom and experience with the naive brilliance and vitality of a rookie." It's critical that veteran leaders treat Millennials as "full" and ready to contribute with their rookie smarts.

The school of thought that experience is needed to lead and innovate is permanently expelled in today's digital age. The new world of work will reward those experienced in being inexperienced.

Question: How do you channel your inner rookie?

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This article was originally posted on Ryan's Inc.com column, Next Generation Insights.


Ryan Jenkins



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