How Much Is Experience Worth?

When I was in school in the 1960's the half-life of knowledge was 15-20 years. Now it's 6-12 months. Organizations and communities are now seeing unprecedented trends in retirement and post-retirement careers as Baby Boomers improvise career maturities and reinventions. The trend raises an old question now at large scales: What should we do with the mountains of experience some Boomers still bring to work everyday while others are preparing to take into retirement?

It's for me as much a personal as professional question as I continue to bring decades of really rich experience to every table at which I sit. Typically, most people at the table have 10-20 years in one, maybe two industries and often on the same continent. I bring over three decades of experience in over 2 dozen different industries and across the world.

What place does this vast portfolio of experience have at any table where we are striving to transform organizations, communities, networks and educational systems?

Any consideration needs to take into account the knowledge half-life trend that makes some portion of anyone's experience less relevant than ever. The contexts of my experiences in the 70s or 90s often sharply differ from current contexts and so are not usefully or wisely replicated today.

The churning and dynamic nature of knowledge today levels the experience playing field. When we elders sit with emerging leaders and have honest adult conversations, everyone brings equally valuable and relevant experience, vision, creativity and humility to the table.

The prime case I would make for any generational generalizations is that we who bring 3-10 times more experience are better positioned to ask more and better questions because of our experience. That's our unique value and social responsibility today.