Sometimes experience is your enemy isn’t supposed to be a deep and philosophical remark. Rather it is a way of acknowledging that sometimes relying our own experience can prevent us from taking advantage of resources and opportunities that might otherwise help us.
A client once told me he didn’t need a website because he didn’t know anyone that used the Internet and the only people he did know were children and he didn’t care “because they aren’t going to be the ones who buy my products.”
I think it is fair to say there aren’t many people who would try to make that argument today and I would be very interested in learning how many people still use a hard copy of the White or Yellow Pages to find telephone numbers.
One More Example
One more example to share with you regarding the importance of not relying solely upon your experience.
Several years back my son and a good friend of his decided they wanted to open a donut shop together. They told me they were going to be successful because their store wouldn’t sell chocolate donuts or anything that had chocolate in it.
They both dislike chocolate so much that when they go trick-or-treating they refuse to accept candy that has chocolate in it.
The two of them were convinced they couldn’t be the only people in the world that hated chocolate and figured that most people were like them. I suggested they test that by taking a poll.
They didn’t want to do it but I convinced them it made more sense to try to sell what people like than to limit their pool of prospective customers. They agreed to take a poll and were horrified to learn that most people like chocolate.
But they also agreed that if they opened their donut shop it would make more sense to sell what people wanted, even if if was digusting.
Experience Is Still Valuable
The point isn’t to minimize the value of experience but to remember that sometimes it has to be balanced against the experiences of others. Sometimes what you think you know isn’t applicable to as large a group as you might expect.