Heard at a recent leadership webinar I attended…
“Experience isn’t worth anything –
it’s the reflection on that experience that counts.
If we don’t reflect, we’re choosing not to get wiser”
In amongst some theory about wisdom (perhaps too much theory if you ask me), that statement stood out, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all afternoon.
So, why is reflection such a big deal?
I can’t count how many times I have heard…
‘delivered project x successfully’ or
‘delivered sales target of y’
…and had the follow up thought – do they actually know how they delivered it? Or was it dumb luck?
Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good interview. I guess I’m just nosey.
Whenever I ask an experience-based question, of course I want to hear the fabulous successes.
But I also want to know the lessons. The 'do differently's'. The 'hell no's'.
Because that tells me who they are.
If they don’t know what they could improve, they’re going to stick to the same formula and hope for the best.
I’d rather hear about a total disaster. A howler (we’ve all had them) that has resulted in fundamental lessons they’ll never forget.
There’s an easy cycle that will help you make the most of all your experiences – good and bad:
Experience – Reflection – Improvements – Experiment
Repeat. (And dust off a shelf for all the trophies).
If we stop the chain before reflection, we cut off the learning:
No improvements are found.
No experimentation takes place.
No new barriers get kicked over.
If the reflection is superficial, we don’t get to the cause:
If it worked = do it again.
If there was a problem = something needs to change.
But it’s never that simple.
If it worked, why did it work?
Is there a key thing you’ve since forgotten about that was fundamental? Maybe a great idea made all the difference that you weren’t even party to.
That shocker that you had (that gives you sweaty palms every time you think about it) may not have been the wrong thing to do. Just the wrong time or the wrong place.
Without asking the tough questions you won’t get the wisdom from the experience. And that’s a crying shame.
You’ll only ever be as good as your last success.
But you could be better than it. And better is better, right?