Rookie Smarts


Rookies Smarts


Liz Wiseman

My first reaction is buy this book.  Ms. Wiseman’s previous book, Multipliers (2010), was full of anecdotes and research on why some leaders get better results than others. The metaphor for Mutipliers is that the best leaders multiply talent, creativity, collaboration, and are able to attract other high performers.

Rookie Smarts (2015), her latest book, addressed an issue that most organizations, especially education, are dealing with.  How do you bring in new talent, keep them engaged, and benefit from their skills, while keeping experienced staff engaged?  Barry Johnson, Polarity Management (1992) suggested you cannot have all young crusaders or all tradition bearers.  The best is a blend, with learning both from each point of view.

Wiseman pinpoints the positives and challenges of both rookies and experienced knowledge workers.  Rookies do not have the same limitations in thinking, since they have fewer experiences.  Therefore, they enthusiastically try new approaches.  Experiences staff may not have the same creative outlook AND they have political savvy and leadership skills.  This is not aged related.  It is more of a state of mind – attitude.

Experience can limit thinking because of successes in the past.  Robert Pascale, Managing on the Edge (1990) said, “Nothing fails like success.”  Unfortunately, what worked in the past may not work as well now, because the environment changes and the current rate of change is complex and volatile.

Wiseman does an excellent analysis of the four different mindsets of rookies. Each are motivated differently.

  1. Backpackers – travel light and are very flexible. They are not constrained by what has been done in the past.
  2. Hunter-Gatherers – look at the culture, go out and find the expertise they need, and keep learning from experienced people
  3. Firewalkers – are more cautious, taking small steps and are continually looking for feedback from experienced staff to help them stay on track
  4. Pioneers – are constantly moving into uncharted territory. They don’t need much to keep learning and producing because they will find what they need along the way.

Obviously there is much more specific information and research in this book.  Trying to blend the best of both, the rookies and experienced staff, will continue to be a cultural and leadership issue organizations have to confront and fashion solutions for staff in schools, districts, and communities.