Respect Experience ... But Don't Overrate It Externa - THINKERS Notebook

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Respect Experience ... But Don't Overrate It Externa

Check out this recent tweet sent by Ray Dalio.

Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates and is one the most successful hedge fund managers and investors of all time.

(If you listened to the THINKERS Manifesto podcast, you know that Dalio is one of THINKERS Notebook founder Sean Jackson's favorite thinkers and role models.)

Dalio lent context to the image with this statement:

"That’s because experienced thinkers can get stuck in their old ways. If you've got a good ear, you will be able to tell when an inexperienced person is reasoning well. Like knowing whether someone can sing, it doesn't take a lot of time."

Dalio is well known for wanting everyone in his organization to feel comfortable sharing their ideas, regardless of their experience level or title. 

And it's not just to be nice. (Let's be honest: you don't become a billionaire by doing anything just to be nice.)

Dalio recognizes what so many of us come to learn as we get older: while experience is incredibly valuable, it's a double-edged sword that can become a weakness without accompanying levels of sound logic and humility.

The reason is that experience can calcify our thinking. The grooves of past logic and reasoning, which may not work in the present-day context, can become so worn into our brains that we can't escape them.

Experience can also make us too comfortable with circumstances as they are and unable to recognize subtle or even massive shifts. 

Most of all, it can also lead us to become arrogant about our own knowledge and judgment. And this can lead to the overlooking, or even ignoring, of perspectives that are not buoyed by the gravitas of experience.

Yet, often what is needed to solve a difficult problem is a new perspective, a fresh set of eyes, a different point of view. But it only works if the people in decision-making roles, who usually have the most experience, are willing to listen and consider with an open mind.

Because regardless of a person's experience level, it's often the quality of the logic and reasoning they're using that makes the biggest difference.

And if it works for Ray Dalio, it's probably worth trying for us too. ;-)

In this week's THINKERS Roundup, you'll find three links that discuss how experience thinking can sometimes be a hindrance while inexperienced thinking can sometimes be a blessing.

Turn a perceived weakness into a real strength.

"Being inexperienced means you’re not shackled with decades of service in a narrow vertical and the accompanying entrenched biases and relationships. You have natural qualities to offer that companies spend millions of dollars per year in training budgets trying to replicate in their most senior executives.

"You question long-held assumptions, cross-pollinating your projects with outside ideas. You don’t have to pander to the person who did you a favor all those years ago, and more generally, you don’t have social capital within your organization to protect. This means you’re pretty free from some huge barriers to innovation: sunk costs, self-interest, and bias. That sense of freedom and independence leads you to think that hitting that stretch goal is possible, which makes achieving it more likely. You tend to think of new solutions quickly, refuse to compromise yourself out of existence, and are a native end-user of technologies that could blow existing business models to bits.

"All this amounts to at least two things: 1) The best organizations should wage wars for people like you, and 2) you can stop looking for opportunities to appear to be adding value. Instead, you can actually add value.”

Read: The Inexperience Advantage (Harvard Business Review)

Empathy can be a powerful substitute for first-hand experience.

"I would be a very wealthy woman if I were paid every time I heard that comment or some version of it during the past decade. It conveys a singular message that experience is the ONLY path towards knowledge and wisdom. Experience is wonderful. For many, experience becomes a teaching vessel so that you are wiser and can pass on information to help another individual, but I also know many individuals who experience the same things over and over again because they don’t learn from experience."

Read: Experience Doesn't Always Ensure Wisdom (Working Mother)

Whether you overrate your experience or shy away because of inexperience, the key is to understand where you need to improve.

"'I went broke and had to borrow $4,000 from my dad just to pay my family bills,' Dalio wrote in his book.

However, Dalio says that failure ended up being 'one of the best things that ever happened to me,' because it forced him to confront some of his own weaknesses that allowed him to make such a major mistake. 

“'It gave me the humility I needed to balance my aggressiveness and shift [my] mindset from thinking ‘I’m right’ to asking myself ‘how do I know I’m right?’"

Read: The ‘fastest path to success starts with knowing what your weaknesses are' (CNBC Power Players)

Quote of the week

"Success comes from knowing what you don’t know, more than coming from what you do know."  

-- Ray Dalio