Sometimes Experience Is Your Enemy

thinkSometimes 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.

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  1. Dan Black February 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Great points. Personal experience and preference only goes so far, it should be coupled with the wisdom and experience of others.

  2. Barrett Rossie February 26, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    We’ve recently started doing some business with a great restaurant whose owner doesn’t “do” social media. I think her customers, however, do.

  3. Mary Stephenson February 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Hi Josh

    Great example for giving them what they want.
    I love chocolate and I am very surprised the two boys don’t like it. I thought everybody did if they like candy at all. There are a few out there that don’t like candy, but very few.


  4. Lori Gosselin February 25, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Hi Josh,
    We’re all so convinced that our perspective of the world is the only one! LOL I agree, we need to step outside of the bubble and do the demographics from time to time! And revise our questions, re-ask them. The answers do change too over time.

    Have you ever eaten your own words? I remember when I resisted Email, and until recently, Pinterest 😮

    • Josh February 26, 2013 at 5:32 am

      Hi Lori,

      I have eaten my words more times than I care to admit. I hate it so I have been slowly learning to look at the world a little bit differently.

      It is a good thing, albeit sometimes “painful.”0 ;

  5. Mark February 25, 2013 at 3:22 am

    “. . . sometimes relying our own experience can prevent us from taking advantage of resources and opportunities that might otherwise help us.”

    This is a very insightful statement. “I know what I’m doing” can sometimes box us into “doing what we know,” without leaving room for the possibility that there may be more for us to know that would prove helpful.

    • Josh February 26, 2013 at 5:29 am

      Hi Mark,

      “I know what I am doing” is a double edged sword that I have seen work magic and ruin. It obviously doesn’t have to be a black and white situation, but I think it sometimes prevents having an open mind.

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