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Rookie Smarts

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Rookie Smarts

Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Eager, curious rookies can outperform complacent veterans.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Leadership expert Liz Wiseman says that “beginner’s luck” on a job may be the result of “Rookie Smarts.” She contends that experience can become a hindrance when it blinds people to opportunities, inhibits their ability to react or leads them to ignore new input. As newcomers, rookies naturally seek guidance. They welcome opportunities to learn and bring eager energy to the workplace. Drawing from research and interviews, Wiseman identifies the four different mind-sets of rookie smarts: “Backpacker, Hunter-Gatherer, Firewalker and Pioneer.” These traits help illustrate ways that someone with experience (referred to as a “veteran” throughout the book) can still manifest the best traits of an eager beginner. getAbstract recommends Wiseman’s insights to managers, coaches and leaders seeking to inspire their employees, whether rookies or veterans.


The Rookie Advantage

People usually revere experience, especially in the workplace. They admire those who master a skill, rise to the top or accumulate successes. A repertoire of abilities, resources and situational acumen comes with experience. Research shows a connection between experience and honed intuition. Many people believe that true mastery demands following the “10,000-hour rule,” which says that gaining proficiency in a skill requires investing 10,000 hours in learning and practice.

Yet research into rookie performance tells another story. In some instances, teams of rookies can perform better than teams of veterans. Studies suggest that most current workplace skills take only 20 hours of practice. Effectively marshaling a team’s talents is more important in achieving high performance than the team members’ level of experience. In fact, experience can prove to be a handicap.

For example, veteran employees can stop learning and listening when they believe they already know what to do and how to do it. The research showed that experience makes people resistant to input and reluctant to seek advice. It heightens their opposition to new ideas, fresh approaches...

About the Author

Leadership expert Liz Wiseman wrote the bestseller Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside our Schools.

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