“It was a good strategy,” he said, “but it just didn't execute well. That sums it up, sad to say.” John G, the consultant had seen this before. He was right, of course, as good consultants always are. To his credit, he did recognize a bright strategy. Many consultants would have blamed the strategy, revealing its flaws in 20/20 hindsight.

 

But he brought no insight to the poor execution, leaving us with a question. It's a recurring question that Science still struggles to explain. It's called the “knowledge-behavior gap.”

 

This phrase describes a chasm, not a gap. It boils down to this: “Why, when we learn something new, do we not change our behavior in congruity with this knowledge?”

 

Examples abound. As individuals, we smoke, we eat too much, we sleep too little and we neglect our exercise, even though we know that all of these sins can kill us.

 

And why do we behave this way in organizations, especially when we know exactly what we should do and we have the financial means? Why then do we fail to execute?

 

Novices are the main reason. In the actual case above – failure happened as soon as it got to

the novices.

 

There weren't as many novices in the old days, but we have lots of them now.

 

And before you get too smug, you're one of them. You're a novice. So am I. Most of us are.

Why we have more novices

In the old days, experience drove success. We learned by “OJT” (On-the-Job-Training). So we were all “newbies” once – but only once – and for a short time. Back then, only about ten percent of the workforce would have been described as true novices.

 

Back then most of us knew how to set up the machine. It was mechanical.

 

But then it happened.  What they said that day changed everything permanently. “We're going digital.” What? Since then, new information and new tools have been coming at us relentlessly.

 

Novice n. - a person who is new to the circumstances, work etc., in which he or she is placed. A beginner.

It's been unsettling. Every day we're pushed into a room where we learn “a whole new way of doing our jobs.”

 

In an instant, we all become nervous novices once again. And again. And here's the frustrating part. These new systems never seem to work very well. They're supposed to be so easy. But they don't “catch on.”

 

Is it us?

Here's what went wrong.

The experts were sent in, to tell the novices what to do. They told us, but it didn't connect. It didn't help. None of us wanted to look stupid so we figured it out on our own. Slowly. Experts are smart, of course. But that only helps when you're training other experts. And experts are the easiest people to train. They don't usually even need it.

The New Normal – the Age of the Novice

Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Today, progress makes novices of us all.

 

Our teams will win only when we gain the ability to train novices. That's where failure happens every time. Let's make sure our organizations take that seriously. Every one of us will be in that category time and again, forever.

 

In the Age of Novices, pull the experts out, send the trainers in.