The rapidly changing workplace means that we can’t rely on yesterday’s knowledge to keep organizations competitive, argues a new book. Why it may be time to stop relying on experience and turn to another source.
If you could be a rookie at work again, would you?
You might immediately think, “heck, no” considering all the mistakes you made when you were new to the job.
But if you think harder, you might begin to realize that even though you stumbled sometimes, you were a rookie with passion, with drive and with an innovative mindset.
What happened to that person?
That’s what Liz Wiseman believes a lot of people wonder. As author of a new book, “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work,” Wiseman argues that in our rapidly changing workplace, experience can be a curse while inexperience can be a blessing.
She says that through her research, she finds rookies often have a different mindset at work that makes them operate with higher levels of self-awareness and move faster than their experienced peers. Because of their inexperience, rookies are driven to ask questions of those with greater expertise. As a result, they often walk away with better solutions. A more experienced worker, she finds, is more likely to solve an issue on his own without seeking outside expertise or simply follow standard practices.
Wiseman says that while some may consider rookies to be bumbling clods, the reality is that many rookies have nothing to lose so they are often open to new possibilities. They don’t get bogged down in old practices. They are optimistic as they explore new territories, focus on doing things differently and don’t worry about why they can’t do something.
Wiseman and her research team looked at nearly 400 workplace scenarios, noting how rookies took on work assignments compared to veteran workers. That enabled them to identify traits of successful and unsuccessful rookies and veterans.
They found the distinct rookie smarts mindset included:
To foster the rookie mindset, even in more experienced employees, Wiseman suggests that managers should “just push people out of their comfort zones,” she says. “I think you can ask people to sort of pivot away from what they normally do.”
For example, you wouldn’t ask a sales professional to suddenly design a new IT process, but that sales professional could be asked to use his skills in interpersonal communications skills in other areas.
“Managers need to look deeply at the fundamental strengths of an employee and think, ‘Is there something there that I can draw on?’” Wiseman says.
Wiseman says that organizations will see a payoff in fostering the rookie mindset because employees are less likely to become bored and disengaged when they’re issued new challenges several times a year. In addition, since many companies don’t always have bonuses or promotions to hand out on a regular basis, keeping employees challenged will help them feel their careers are being developed and boost morale.
In addition, she says that many managers could see their own workloads eased if more employees are challenged regularly. “Let them start doing other things and you will see your load is considerably lighter. It’s a lazy man’s way to employee satisfaction,” she says, laughing.
At the same time, Wiseman says that if employees don’t feel like their managers are embracing the idea of a rookie mindset, they can do it themselves.
“Be quick on the ‘yes,’” she advises. “Say ‘yes’ to things and then you can figure out how to do them. Continually sign up to do hard things.”
Among her suggestions to move into a rookie mindset:
What do you think of fostering a rookie mindset in your career or organization?