Today’s Story – Does your experience help or hurt you?
Some of you will remember my blog/video about leaving my snow shovels in Maryland – and then having a FOOT of snow show up here in North Carolina.
I’ve been thinking about that, and wanted to share something I learned through that experience.
My uncle is a flight instructor for a flight school. One of the ideas he has taught me is the idea of “positive transfer of skills” versus “negative transfer of skills”
- Sometimes our experience helps us, (positive transfer)
- Sometimes we THINK it helps, but it really is a setback for us (negative transfer.)
In my case, I was anxious to shovel my snow because of my experience in MD for the last 20 years.
In MD, after it snows, many times the daytime high temperature is above freezing and the nighttime temperature is below freezing.
This means that the snow turns to slush and then becomes a rock hard block of ice securely fastened to the pavement below. It is EXTREMELY unpleasant to scrape a driveway clear of ice – even when working with rock salt (which I also left in Maryland.)
As I was shoveling, I felt a little smug. After all, my lazy neighbors were not touching their snow. Didn’t these silly southerners realize just how tough it was going to be if they didn’t get started right away?
Reality: My “experience” didn’t help!
Here’s where the negative transference of experience comes into play:
Those “silly southerners” were a LOT more experienced with Charlotte winters than I.
In fact, I bet that some of them were shaking their heads with a thought of “silly Yankee” out there working so hard. If they spoke to someone else about it they probably said “My neighbor was out madly shoveling snow from his driveway, bless his heart.”
(“Bless his heart,” I’ve learned, is a southern expression of sympathy toward someone who should know better, but clearly does not! And that’s putting is as nicely as possible.)
The Southern Experience
Why were they staying indoors? What did they know that I didn’t? BECAUSE In the south, it doesn’t stay below freezing for long, if at all!
Two days after a foot of snow: all driveways – shoveled and unshoveled were clear. In fact, a foot of snow shuts down the city for a couple of days – so there’s no need to worry about having to go anywhere!
Which gets me to Today’s Action Point
As a leader, you bank on your experience – and you count on positive transfer of that knowledge. Today I want you to think: “My gut says X – but what if I’m wrong? What if my experience is a NEGATIVE transfer this time?”
There’s a military adage about this: “generals always fight the last war, especially if they have won it”.
* What might you “know” that actually works against you?
* What risks are you protecting against that are actually time wasters?
* What business rules need to be rewritten?
One Final Thought
Sometimes being an expert is the worst possible thing for success.
What can you approach in a new way?
What assumptions are you making that you can discard?