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Rookie smarts

Blog Ingrid van Tienen, deputy director at ORMIT

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By Ingrid van Tienen

Deputy director ORMIT

Looking for: experience. That depends, says Ingrid van Tienen, because learning is more important than knowing. Ingrid looks to challenge everyone to use their rookie smarts, regardless of their age. Become a student once again, move into your discomfort zone and take a single, resolute step. Wake up!

Learning beats knowing

Sure, experience is valuable, but its value is often overestimated. The value of inexperience, however, is often underestimated. The way inexperienced employees think and work in order to compensate for their lack of experience is a major factor for success. That doesn't just apply to them, but to everyone looking for lasting success in this VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous). 

Developments happen so quickly that it doesn't take long for knowledge to be obsolete and outdated. That's why learning is becoming increasingly more important than knowing. And learning, it so happens, is exactly what job starters excel at. Leadership guru Liz Wiseman calls this way of thinking and working rookie smarts.

"Your experience can create blind spots for new possibilities: if you know what has to happen intuitively, it can be difficult to open yourself up to new information and to involve other people in the process."

Check: comfort or learning zone?

First, take a critical look in the mirror and see whether you are still in your learning zone, or whether you've accidentally gotten stuck in your comfort zone. To find out, you can use the following checklist. If you recognise more than 3 of the following signs in your job, it's time to increase the learning value of your work and to start working on your rookie smarts mindset.

From teacher to student

Good results in the past have brought you where you are now. You have something to lose if you let go of your tried & tested methods and assumptions, but you also know that good results in the past are no guarantee of success in the future. Your experience can create blind spots for new possibilities: if you know what has to happen intuitively, it can be difficult to open yourself up to new information and to involve other people in the process. As soon as we've formed a habit, our brains stop working. Learning something new every day and challenging your limits leads to enthusiasm and more fun in your work. Once you start this process, you'll never be able to stop and will remain rookie forever.

Move into your discomfort zone

Usually, we don't start doing something new because we want to, but because we have to. Only when we are forced by necessity do we open ourselves up to learn something new, change our behaviour and move beyond mere intentions. Start looking for situations where you can't fall back on your knowledge and experience, forcing you to think and act like a rookie. A few examples:

  1. Take on an exciting challenge for which you don't have the required knowledge and skills yet.
  2. Go looking for the limits of your current work and capacities.

Take small steps

Look for challenges that are uncomfortable and difficult, but not impossible. It doesn't take a radical career switch to wake up your inner rookie. Start by taking a single resolute step outside of your comfort zone. If the step is too large and unachievable, causing you to fail, there is a risk that you may find it increasingly difficult to take risks and move out of your comfort zone.