Experience counts for so much in business, the value I have gotten from trying to apply different ideas or practices (and often getting nowhere) far out weighs that from books and talks.
Years ago I remember reading truisms like ‘if you get the sinking feeling that you’ve made a hiring error then act soon, putting your head in the sand and hoping for a change is bad for everyone’. Makes excellent sense and is so easy to say – but knowing this didn’t stop me from making exactly that mistake when I first went into business. Repeatedly.
When I look back over some of my early hiring decisions that went wrong then ‘hoping’ is a good description of my general frame of mind. For me, the experience of those bad hires carries so much more weight than a few words in a book and has really shaped how I have approached recruiting for Enspiral.
Second hand learning is great but there is a real difference between ‘knowing’ something and applying it every day. At least, that’s what I thought until this week when I tried a different approach and had very positive results.
I was faced with a big decision and did something I had never really done before – I asked for advice. Instead of fumbling along and trying to figure it all out on my own I contacted half a dozen people whose opinion I respected and have a lot more experience than I do. 3 coffees and 2 emails later my thinking is much clearer and the path forward seems obvious – it was like having the benefit of hard won experience without having to make all the mistakes myself and I’m really grateful for the generosity of time and ideas.
I tend to run my ideas past a lot of people as a general practice (which I consider absolutely invaluable) but this was the first time I had consciously sought people with more experience and asked them what they would do in my shoes (‘What questions would you ask yourself?’ also really helped). Naturally this isn’t a card you would play all the time but I would definitely do it again in the future. Perhaps this is why advisory boards are used so often – might move that one up a few notches on the todo list.
So while experience is really important, borrowing other people’s from time to time is a good thing.