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Knowledge vs Experience?

Let's start with a story about a small tech startup company.   There are a handful of young programmers who like to play video games all night, come to work around noon, and work until 8 or 9 pm, before starting all over again.    Redbull and pizza fuel their existence, and they have Big O notation scribblings all over the whiteboard.  

Other players include a management staff made up of former C-level executives from large, multi-national corporations.   They talk about things such as investor relations, "sharing a vision", corporate culture, and why the hell the programmers can't come to work on time.

You can see this is probably one of the most extreme cases of diversity.   Can the situation work and develop into a fruitful business?  Certainly!  But, the key ingredient that both sides must possess is a true regard for the other group, and a genuine appreciation what their complements bring to the company.  

Taking the a member of the younger group as an example... 

He knows that the seasoned veterans believe anything built on a LAMP stack is amateurish and not ready for prime-time.   He also knows that the older marketing exec thinks social media is not a real marketing channel.   And, because he knows that older manager's beliefs  are dated thoughts, he has no regard for the fact that the manager has forgotten more about getting a product to the market then he'll likely ever know.    He can't look past what the manager doesn't know, to see what he does know.

Similarly, the older manager views the young programmer as a commodity for cranking out code all day (preferrably from 9 to 5).   He knows the programmer has never built a product and taken it to market.  He knows the programmer doesn't know the difference between debt financing and equity financing, and that investor meetings seem to go much better if the programmer isn't attending.   But, he doesn't have regard for the fact that the programmer spends evenings hacking the growth of his blog, is an active contributor to some large open source software projects, and, just for the fun of it, studies all of the latests trends in social network marketing, search engine optimization, website analytic, and user acquisition strategies.  

In order to make a situation like this evolve to a profitable business, both groups have some changes to make.  They should first take stock in themselves, understanding what their strengths are, and more importantly, what their weakness are.   This takes honesty and the ability to set the ego aside.  If this first step isn't possible, then the road is going to get long and bumpy.

Next, everyone should take stock of what others in the organization have to offer, and learn to tap into those assets to bolster their own weaknesses.  

For instance, the older marketer may realize that he has years of experience and knows how to research a market, make a detailed plan, and manage the resources available to put that plan in place.  However, he may realize that in all his years of experience, he's never built a successful social media campaign (probably the reason he dismisses it's usefulness).  Perhaps he should walk down stairs and ask the programmer to join him in a brainstorming session to find some new ways to build the social following.   

And, perhaps the programmer can walk upstairs some time and let the manager know that, while had can make the analytics spew gigabytes of data every day, he'd like some input on which pieces of that information have proven valuable to a business, based on the manager's vast experience.   

The bottom line is that in many companies, there are a lot of very smart people.  Some are super knowledgable, but lack experience, and some have years and years of experience, but are just too busy with other duties to keep up with the latest technology tools available.   Rather than pointing out what each group doesn't know, recognizing the talents of others and using those talents to shore up your own weaknesses is the path to building a synergistic workforce and a valuable company.   


Posted on May 30, 2015