Liz Wiseman: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wiseman, bio-lizLiz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and speaker who teaches leaders around the world. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Liz is a former executive from Oracle Corporation. She writes regularly for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time Magazines. She has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Her latest book, <str>Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, was published by HarperBusiness (October 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Linda.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Rookie Smarts?

Wiseman: At the “height of my career” at Oracle after being perpetually under-qualified for a series of oversized jobs, I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. But, as I left this comfortable environment, I wondered how my hard-won knowledge and expertise might become a liability. I had this lingering (if not nagging) question: How does what we know get in the way of what we don’t know but need to learn? I wondered when experience was a liability and being inexperienced (and even under-qualified) could be an asset.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Wiseman: The most surprising finding was that in the realm of knowledge work, rookies tend to outperform experienced people, especially when the work is innovative in nature and needs to be delivered fast. There were also a number of counter intuitive findings. For example, we typically think of rookies as big risk takers; however, we found that rookies work more cautiously, biting off smaller pieces and checking in frequently with stakeholders to minimize risk. We also found that rookies aren’t actually bumbling and clueless – they have significantly higher levels of self-awareness and are more attuned to organizational politics, which causes them to reach out, build alliances, and stay connected with critical players.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

The research findings were very different that my research hypothesis – in fact, I think about 50% of my hypotheses were wrong. However the final books very closely follows the original book proposal. I am persistent to a fault and have been accused of being “a dog on a bone.” In hindsight, there are a couple places I fell like I should have deviated more from my original plan.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye.

For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as [begin italics] the most important point [end italics] or [begin italics] key take-away [end italics] in each of these passages.

First, The New Workscape (Pages 6-10)

Wiseman: “When there is too much to know, having the right question may be more important than having a ready answer.”

Morris: A Question of Experience (20-22)

Wiseman: “The upside of experience may be less pronounced than once imagined, while its downside may be even steeper. What we know might actually mask what we don’t know and impede our ability to learn and perform.”

Morris: The Learned and the Learners (22-24)

Wiseman: “Sometimes the more you know, the less you learn.”

Morris: The Rookie Smart Mindset: Backpacker, Hunter-Gatherer, Firewalker, and Pioneer (27-34)

Wiseman: “Rookie smarts isn’t defined by age or by experience level; it is a state of mind – it is how we tend to think and act when we are doing something for the first time. These four rookie and veteran modes are not an attempt to categorize people; they illustrate patterns of behavior. They are modes we can slip into and roles we tend to assume. We shift into and out of these modes based on our situation, mindsets, and assumptions.”

Morris: The Right Terrain (34-38)

Wiseman: “While rookies can play an important role, they need to be channeled and directed toward the right kinds of terrains for top performance.”

“Experts tend to outperform novices in the long game because they can recognize patterns and project into the future, but rookies are particularly well suited to deal with the immediate and the ephemeral.”

“In complex systems, where there is too much information for any one person to process or any one expert to know, the organizations that win will be those that tap into the greatest number of brains.”

Morris: The Fountain of Youthful Thinking (41-42)

Wiseman: “The most dangerous place to be might be at the top—whether it is the top of a ladder or at the top of your game…If you are at the top of your game, it might be time to position yourself at the bottom of a learning curve. It is on this steeper learning curve that we can rekindle our rookie smarts.”

“Are you learning faster than the world is changing?”

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 2 of the interview.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

Liz cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Rookie Smarts link

Multipliers Books link

The Wiseman Group link

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