Thursday, July 30, 2009

Years of Experience

At this point in our careers, you meet a lot of people. 10-20 years in, everyone has a trunk full of knowledge, stories, anecdotes and experiences. Usually, some experiences are good, and some experiences are bad. But, this many years later, you have lots and lots of experiences.

To each individual, the entirety of their experiences are important. They drive the person's attitude, personality, approach, sense of self - everything. So, when asking anyone about their experiences, they will always speak effusively about their magnitude and import. To that person, they absolutely are big and important.

Unfortunately, the value of experiences is entirely subjective. So, it is virtually impossible to evaluate whether one individual has more experience, or better quality experiences. It's entirely contextual, requires knowledge of what the person learned from the experiences, and is entirely unreliably self-reported. Recently, I've heard many people describe "more experience" and "less experience" of people around them, and realized - that's not even close to a metric. 

The other risk of the subjectivity of experience comes up when asking advice. Invariably, people tell you what worked for them - in their experience. Naturally, this doesn't map to your timeline and your personality and your experience. But, more often than not, the strategy and advice is presented as universally true, when in fact, it was simply true for that individual.

I feel like, as a society, with our increasingly youth-oriented business culture, we need to re-examine how we evaluate and understand experience and it's value. But I'm not sure what constructs should replace the traditional metrics. Thoughts?

1 comment:

hornett said...

Well, I know this is true in the finance world. Traders, hedgies, analysts, pms are all getting younger. These kids right out of college that are really good at financial math don't have remember the last financial crash, or LTCM, or getting laid off because their last company was over-leveraged. Companies like these younger, aggressive types, and don't keep the 30+ years on the job guys around - so you end up with a short view of the financial world and dumb assumptions. I'm sure that didn't help us avoid the latest crash.