When your experience does not matter

Experience is overrated. Overemphasized. Especially in creative fields of design and technology.

As experience I mean a practice of doing something as a professional, not a process of using a product or a service that results in emotions and outcomes. I want to talk about how we work here.

We often hear have you ever done that before? and are expected to confirm, before we can proceed with whatever we are trying to do. Years of practice or go back doing what someone with experience told you to. No previous case studies that show our capability? Surely you will not succeed. This approach is wrong.

Here are few situation when experience is not the most crucial component.

Doing your job with a different process, approach, tool, team member or with new mental model

If you know the stuff you are doing you should experiment with how you do your job. You will never have experience in a new approach unless you try it yourself. How we work is unique for a task and the kind of people on the team.

You want to try lean, agile, waterfall, a mixture of all of that — do not hesitate. There is a replacement for an app you have used for 10 years? Test yourself and your team. Do it with most complex projects. You will notice fast that something is not working and you will adapt, fix, be well, feel good and know better next time.

The trick here is to change only one variable in the equation. What you are doing (job), how you are doing this (tools, process) or with who (team members or a position). Pick only one thing.

Doing things based on solid research (by you or by others) or based on others experience

You have read a book. Now you want to follow the ideas from the book? Go for it. Books and experts are there to give you a shortcut through failure and success. They are there to compensate your lack of experience.

A good book, tutorial, guide, training or expert advice is more valuable that coming to the conclusions and knowledge yourself — sure you might loose some depth, but you gain time. A lot of it. And less risk. This is about improvement (10% better) and not innovation.

When you strongly believe you are first one to get it right

Entrepreneurship, innovation, disruption, game changers are not born through years of experience, but from seconds of inspiration and a courage to exit one’s comfort zone.

Sure, doing stuff in a new way often leads to failure. And it takes time to perfect whatever you have challenged, but it will pay off. It is about innovation (10x better) and this situation is a contradiction to the previous one.

For me experience is most of the time less important than how I approach new challenges. The world today changes so fast that many-year experience of a tool, process or job is rare.

Most of the time the experience that is requested is irrelevant. There are tons of job descriptions that require master knowledge of some tool, while the tools change constantly. The same is true for processes and principles.

I do value experience, do not get me wrong. It helps doing things faster, identify risks and opportunities better. It gives confidence to myself and people I am working on. But… I still remember my first job. I had no experience. And nobody noticed or did not bother to acknowledge the fact, because I tried hard, put my hart into it and took experience of others around me and in the air (books, blogs, courses).

So the next time you have opportunity to try something new, to step beyond your field of expertise, do it. It will not go flawless, but you will gain experience and the next time you will not have to handle have you ever done that before questions. ;-)

👨‍💻 Designer by profession. 👨‍🔬 Scientist at heart. 🕵️‍♂️ Researcher by passion. 👨‍🏫 Teacher by call. 🧟‍♂️ Writer by ignorance. ✏︎ @lukasztyrala

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