How to make your organisation future-proof?

How to make your organisation future-proof?

Ingrid van Tienen

Ingrid van Tienen


I bet that for some area’s you are a real expert. People know they can count on your expertise and you can always give the best advise whenever asked for it. Or maybe not always? Ever been in a situation where you had the most experience in the room, but a rookie came up with the best perspective and solution? We call this ‘rookie smart’. Let us tell you about this.

I want young talent in my organisation!

The example above shows that experience isn’t always the best predictor for success experience isn’t always the best predictor for success. Sometimes experience actually results in blind spots for new opportunities: if you already intuitively feel what to do, it can be difficult to be open to new information and to involve others. Our brain stops working once a habit is formed.


"Rookie smarts": a mindset

Precisely because of their lack of experience, rookies are quite good at mobilising and binding the knowledge and skills of others. This appears to have much more impact on the performance of your team than the amount of experience they have. Leadership guru Liz Wiseman calls this way of thinking and working "rookie smarts".

"Rookie smarts" is a choice, a mindset. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have, you can always begin (again) to think with the openness and agility of a rookie. How do you recognize a "rookie smarts" mindset? Or even more importantly: how will you adopt a Rookie smarts mindset to make the difference in your team?


From backpacker to settler

A "rookie smarts" mindset can be recognized through 4 different behaviors:

  1. Backpacker: travels around the world without much luggage and nothing to lose. This provides for space and freedom to discover new fields and new opportunities.
  2. Hunter-gatherer: keeps an eye on the surroundings and seeks advice from others.
  3. Master of fire: takes small and calculated steps, moves quickly and asks continuously for feedback to stay on the right path.
  4. Pioneer: moves on unfamiliar and uncomfortable terrain, improvises and works tirelessly.


The counterparts of this behavior that can block out new perspectives are the:

  1. Keeper: relies on a proven approach and earlier success and thus maintains the status quo.
  2. Local guide: knows his or her environment. Is not looking for new information, remains close to what is known and gives advice instead of asking for it.
  3. Marathon runner: feels capable and runs the race at a steady pace. Relies on the automatic pilot or takes big, careless steps without consulting with other critical stakeholders.
  4. Settler: remains in his or her comfort zone, follows the processes and relies on methods that have already proven good.


How to be a rookie yourself 

It is not about classifying people into boxes. These are behavior patterns that we all recognize ourselves too. Often, we show "rookie-behavior" in one situation while we display "routineer-behavior" in another one, depending on the context, our assumptions and our mindset.  It requires a conscious effort to be "rookie smart"; since our natural tendency is to stay in our comfort zone.

How do you make sure that you are sitting in the driver's seat?  First, through determining for yourself if you're still in your learning area or if you have unconsciously become rooted in your comfort zone. If you know that at certain points you are in your comfort zone, look for situations where you cannot rely on your experience and track record, and thus be forced to think again and act like a beginner. Learning something new every day and working to the top of your abilities will lead to enthusiasm and more work satisfaction. Once you have started, you cannot stop and you will remain forever a rookie.

And that is probably the key to success: being conscious about the fact that for some issues or area’s we are so cosy in our comfort zone, that we put on the automatic pilot of the driver’s seat and forget to be a ‘backpacker’, ‘hunter-gatherer’, ‘master of fire’ or pioneer’.   Having experience and not having to question every single thing you do, helps in every-day work, but can also refrain you from getting the most out of situations. Moreover, getting out of your comfort zone can feel risky. And it requires guts to seek out the uncomfortable or the ‘risk’ anyway. You can boost up your ‘rookie smart’ mindset by looking for situations where you cannot rely on you experience and track record. You will than be forced to think and act again as a beginner and rediscover that mindset. Once you have started to adopt that mindset, there will be stopping you 😊. Be a rookie forever!

I want young talent in my organisation!