The battle of Experience and Education

Using only experience is like ignoring all research underlying academic theory.

Using only education ignore experience of others within the same area of knowledge, that is required to put in perspective the context in which the theory is operationalized.

The ideal state is between experience and education, where experience is challenge by education and education is challenged by experience.

But for many companies and people, their context is between these two of these states: Mostly Experience or Mostly Theory

Mostly Experience

That is when managers or contributors has less education in their required area of knowledge, required to do their work, but has a lot of experience. They are usually referring to their experience until they reach a point where almost no experience can help them addressing a situation. It’s only a this point that they will refer to education, by reading a book or by hiring an external consultant. Because of the reflex to refer first to experience, when managers or contributors will see the tip of a possible solution they will rapidly fallback to their experience, saying that their context is different than what education is telling.

Mostly Theory

That is when managers/contributors refers first to their education and are trying to do their work based on how it should be done. Usually, they are starting to struggle when an external factor affect their “way to do thing”. They struggle to adapt theory, to change the way they are doing things until they reach a breaking point where the theory is considered the wrong one because of their current or past experience. A lot of them will no try to adapt the theory to their context, but will completely change to a new theory that seems to be more adapted to their context.

How to change things

Both “experienced” and “educated” people reach a breaking point over time. For experienced people, the breaking point is the extent of their experience – within theory, there is toolbox of potential useful learning.

For people leveraging mostly theory, the breaking point is reached when the pressure coming from external factors impact the “right way of doing things”. Since the theory is build out of an aggregation of multiple contexts, it is in fact not applicable as-is in a specific context.

Final Word

When the breaking points of each of types of people is known, there is more chance that the pendulum oscillating between Experience and Education can go back in the middle.