Monday, May 21, 2007


The Experience Trap

Here is another insightful essay by Clay, which once again demonstrates why he is one of today's best thinkers about the extended IT/business milieu. My summary of his argument is that deep human experience is very beneficial to guide our behavior when the larger environment remains largely unchanged. But when the environment is changing deep human experience is detrimental in guiding our behavior. Clay says:
IBM learned, from decades of experience, that competitive advantage lay in the hardware; Bill Gates had never had those experiences, and didn’t have to unlearn them. Jerry and David at Yahoo learned, after a few short years, that search was a commodity. Sergey and Larry never knew that. Mark Cuban learned that the infrastructure required for online video made the economics of web video look a lot like TV. That memo was never circulated at YouTube.
So this is the trick -- to know when our environment has sufficiently changed, to be able to avoid the experience trap. Clay hints that people with lots of experience, just cannot escape into a novice state of mind. Rather than unlearn the old ways, partner with young folks who have never learned the old ways.

This reminds me of the premise of Orson Scott Card's scifi novel Ender's Game. The earth was under attack from aliens. No human adult could escape their humaness enough to think like an alien enough to successfully battle the aliens. So they recruited grade-schoolers to think "alien."

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