Is experience overrated in a knowledge age?

In my experience, the education sector can only benefit from the innovations and ideas from other sectors and industries.  I think we should be examining the underlying philosophies, principles and practices that make an organisation successful in a knowledge age and how schools can learn from or even adopt similar practices.  Yet there is still a reticence to do anything that has been cultivated from without the education sector.

Everything is evolving in a connected world and it seems the game-changers are companies like Amazon and Google including how they employ and retain creative staff.  It seems that potential is more valuable than experience in the 21st century according to article in the latest Harvard Business Review.

The article’s author, Claudio Fernandez-Araoz believes we are moving into a new era of talent spotting, in which ‘potential’ is the ‘most important predictor of success at all levels.’  Fernandez-Araoz says that the 21st century work environment is complex, uncertain and volatile and the  question organisations need to ask is not do employees and leaders have the right skills but do they have the ‘potential to learn new ones.’  Remember Alvin Toffler’s famous quote about 21st century illiterates!

Fernandez-Araoz goes on to identify other qualities that he sees as the hallmarks of potential: motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement and determination. Interestingly, these are the qualities that effective teachers bring out in students when learning is challenging, engaging and rewarding.

For me this article raises new challenges for education to consider in the way we attract and retain teachers.  I tweeted an article from HBR recently on a company in the US that has taken the bold step of ditching resumes and auditioning potential recruits to see how they work in existing teams.  Several people responded to me on twitter to say they were already doing this in their schools!

Education in general needs to dismantle the industrial mindsets and practices that are stifling widespread innovation.  Even the Federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne has said that education is one of the last bastions in the working world where length of service is still rewarded.

The days of logical career mapping and moving up the professional ladder are limited.  Schools need the best instructional leaders leading – and it may be that we need to look at potential over experience.

The rhetoric of being a life-long learner needs is becoming the reality for knowledge workers and teachers are no exception.





4 thoughts on “Is experience overrated in a knowledge age?

  1. Greg I certainly agree with the article and see how in the education sector we can recognise potential in staff. In employing permanent staff I have used the opportunity from teacher practicuums, relief work and block work to assess possible permanent employees.
    This gives you a chance to see how they fit in to the “chemistry” of the school, their strengths and willingness to engage. Actually I believes it gives us the opportunity to look at our employees in a holistic sense.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! In my experience, the most successful teachers and leaders are those who are life-long learners that continuously reflect on, evaluate, question and challenge their own practice (and that of others) and the impact they are having on student learning outcomes. I have found that the ability to do this often has nothing to do with the years of experience but rather the willingness to work in a transparent manner, welcoming and seeking continuous growth and feedback that leads to change in our ever-changing world. Often it is those with less experience who possess these traits.

  3. The discourse of lifelong learning has evolved dramatically since educational theorists in the 1960’s proposed alternatives to traditional ‘front loading’ approaches to education. However, the intrinsic motivation for lifelong learners today, is increasingly being replaced by the language of economic rationalism.

    We must never allow education to become corrupted by the discourse of knowledge economies. As teachers and learners, we must never allow education to become a means to an ends; this will only ever lead to surface learning. Deep knowledge, the kind that leads to meaningful outcomes, is nourished in an environment where education has intrinsic value in and of itself.

    I hope the day never arrives when schools become microcosms of global competitiveness which views knowledge as a commodity and economic rationalism governs the decisions of stakeholders such as you.

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