In business and in life, experience isn’t everything

Boris is the wise ol’ founder of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

When I build a chair, I almost always make the same mistake. While I’m working on it, I tell myself: “This is just a trial run, and once I really understand the process, I’ll make another one, and it will be perfect.” But then I never build another one, and I’m stuck with the first version of my chair.

The first time you assemble an Ikea closet, it all fits snugly. But if a few years later, you need to disassemble and then re-assemble the closet, you’ll never get it back together as solidly as the first time.

Now imagine needing an operation, and the hospital gives you a choice between two surgeons. One is young, and the older is old. Which one do you pick? The older one might have more experience, but she also might be tired of her job and behind on newer techniques. On the other hand, the younger one might miss experience but looks at things with a fresh perspective and is still eager to learn and do a great job.

I can’t seem to figure this out. I like working with people with experience, but there’s a lot to be said for youthful exuberance. Some things get better when you do them a lot. And with other projects, you better give it your all the first time because there’s unlikely to be another.

So ideally, you find a surgeon who has the experience but still exhibits the excitement and energy of a young surgeon. And you never take apart that Ikea closet. And every time I’m building a chair, I should treat it as a one-off project from the start. 

But the cold, harsh reality is that you rarely get to pick your surgeon. And when you move to your new apartment, you probably just buy a whole new IKEA closet to save yourself the hassle.

When working with teams in companies, this is yet another argument for diversity. Find people from different backgrounds and skillsets so one person’s experience can be combined with another person’s exuberance.



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