Christopher Lawson's Reviews > Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work

Rookie Smarts by Liz Wiseman
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it was amazing

√ "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

--John Wooden

ROOKIE SMARTS takes a hard look at the role of experience in the workplace. Since scientific knowledge is changing rapidly, the question is, "How long does one's expertise last?"

The author's proposition is this: In a rapidly-changing world, retaining knowledge becomes less critical than GETTING the knowledge. Those who adapt and figure out ways to acquire knowledge will be miles ahead of those who only have outdated information--even if they do have a lot of experience. "When the world is changing quickly, experience can become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing." The rookie, on the other hand can often adapt more quickly, and is not beholden to the "old ways" of doing things.

♦ The information in this book is supported by a lot of research done by the author. She was interested in finding out when a "rookie" could do a job better than a veteran. Research shows that a novice is more willing to ask for help from experts, rather than just do it the same old way. The author cites research suggesting that rookies reach out to experts five times more often than experienced veterans.

♦ In ROOKIE SMARTS, Ms Wiseman doesn't just want to convince us that rookies can do a good job--she wants to show us how we can gain some of the rookie wisdom. Sort of like staying a rookie for life. The author's new motto is "Quaerere Eruditionem," which is Latin for "Seek Learning."

Part I of the book explores how and when a rookie excels. The author identifies 4 ways a rookie behaves. By understanding these 4 mindsets, we can emulate them, and benefit.

The four modes that make a rookie effective are:
♦ BACKPACKER
♦ HUNTER-GATHERER
♦ FIREWALKER
♦ PIONEER.

The rookie is less encumbered, so to speak, is alert, quick, and relentless. Rookies have nothing to lose--no image to maintain, no "status quo" to safeguard. The veteran, on the other hand, tends to be more protective, advisory, going at a "steady pace," and more comfort oriented.

Part II shows us how WE can get some of that ability. It will not be easy: "Escaping this force requires deliberate thought and action." If one succeeds, however, a magical thing can happen. What if the veteran can keep his experience wisdom, but then adopt a rookie mindset? "Something magical happens when a skilled veteran successfully relearns his rookie smarts and is still able to retain his veteran acumen. he can then select the specific mentality and approach that is most effective for each task and situation."

That is--it's the best of both worlds!

♦ It's true, the author admits, that some fields are highly dependent on solid experience. She quotes the famous study by Ericsson, which found that 10,000 hours are required to attain mastery in certain fields--especially music and athletics. She also points out that putting novices into certain jobs would be foolish. Think, "Aircraft Pilot." The recent airliner crash in San Francisco involved a pilot and a trainer with very little experience.

♦ Ms Wiseman provides a lot of supporting documentation. Appendix A describes the researchers that worked on the book, and their qualifications. Other appendices contain experiments that the reader can try to develop their own "rookie smarts," and become a learner for life. There are fun "Rookie Revival Strategies" like these: 1) Make an "I Don't Know" list, which identifies things you need to learn; 2) Announce your ignorance to let people know you're learning.

√ All in all ROOKIE SMARTS is a fascinating, fun read. The thesis of this book is an intriguing one--and it is certain to cause a lot of debate (and maybe some angst) in many circles. My favorite line in the book: "The ark was built by amateurs, but professionals build the Titanic (Richard Needham.)
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