October 31, 2014

I spent this week at the FORTUNE/Gazelles Growth Summit in Las Vegas and heard best-selling author Liz Wiseman (Multipliers) share the latest research from her newly-released Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. In summary, Wiseman believes that the way we act when we’re doing something for the first time is when we’re often at our best… curious, unencumbered by the past, cautious yet eager. Wiseman identifies a whole new breed of leaders – perpetual rookies who have mastered the art of constant learning.

Wiseman’s research indicates that when we face something important or hard in the workplace that is new and challenging to us, acting like a rookie serves us well. As rookies:

• we seek out others’ guidance and expertise;
• ask repeatedly for feedback;
• are less worried about making mistakes and more focused on what we can learn;
• are more willing to say what we don’t know;
• and, may be less inhibited by corporate politics.

However, for many veteran leaders, this is our discomfort zone. We are accustomed to being the experts with the historical knowledge and practical experience others count on.

By channeling our inner-rookie, we often think more creatively and bring new, fresh solutions to the table. We can ditch long-held assumptions that are no longer relevant. And, we are reminded of the value of “learning something” before “doing something.”

In Uncommon Candor, I reference child-like candor, that uninhibited way of speaking the truth that we all had before we were “shushed” by our parents. While, of course, there are refinements to be made (such as being respectful of others’ feelings) I encourage this sincere form of honesty. Wiseman’s point feels similar – there is value in revisiting the way we thought and acted when we were younger and less driven by our knowledge and experience.