The Difference Between Knowledge and Experience

Have you ever had to call a plumber out to the house only to have the problem fixed in under 15 minutes and then receive a bill for $75 or $100? Does it get your goat? Are you inclined to argue and say – “$100 for fifteen minutes of work? That’s highway robbery!”

Perhaps. But if we had the same knowledge and experience we wouldn’t have needed to call the plumber. Am I right?

Here is another scenario to consider…have you ever been in a meeting with someone who has more educational knowledge – they have a Masters Degree or multiple years of study in comparison to you but they just “don’t get it?” Their contributions to the discussion are more academic and not based in reality and therefore may not be appropriate. 

The only source of knowledge is experience. Albert Einstein 

We can confuse knowledge with experience. Just because someone knows how something should be done because they read a book about the subject or took a class or even have a degree, doesn’t mean they have actually gotten their hands dirty.

“I’m not a doctor…I just play one on TV.”

In a recent interview of Rachel Bilson of the CW television show Heart of Dixie, she jokingly said that if someone got glass in their foot she should be the one to remove it because she plays a doctor on television.

The image above on the left shows the kernels of knowledge that someone might have that really lead to nowhere. The image on the right show how experience allows you to take that knowledge and put it together to be successful.

As women, we frequently discount our experience and tend to keep our ideas and suggestions quiet in favor of someone in the room who may appear to have more knowledge. When in fact the experience you bring to the table is in fact as valuable or even more valuable than all of their years of “book learning.”

Mike Robertson of Robertson Training Systems has this to say on the subject:

Just because they have KNOWLEDGE doesn’t mean they have real-world EXPERIENCE.

When I think of experience, I immediately think of coaches like Dan John or Joe Kenn. Guys that have been in the industry 20, 30 or more years. Guys that have talked the talk and walked the walk.

Think about it like this: Do you want to learn business from a stuffy professor in a classroom? Or do you want to learn it from someone like Donald Trump who has made billions of dollars? 

Experience is not what happens to a man: it is what a man does with what happens to him.
Aldous Huxley


Colleen Sharen goes one step further and ties our experience into our ability to be a great leader. In an article she wrote about the Value of Experience she has this to say:

I can’t help feeling that experience may be an important part of leadership. Not the kind of experience that is the corporate joke, “he has twenty years of experience, that is one year of experience twenty times over.”  What I’m talking about is deeply learned experience, that is so deeply rooted that it feels like intuition.  Experience can become a trap, assuming that history will repeat itself endlessly.  Experience can sometimes cause complacency. No doubt.  But experience, open to the world, and combined with humility can go a long way to creating a leader that people can respect.

How many times have you heard “I am just so impressed with all you do and what you know.” And you think to yourself – it was nothing, it is just what I do. That is your experience talking. Most people can’t do what you do, therefore, you need to examine your knowledge coupled with your experience and recognize just how valuable you are.

You may not be a plumber charging $100 for fifteen minutes of work but perhaps now you can understand how the plumber’s knowledge and years of experience are what led him (or her) to be able to diagnose and fix the problem so quickly.  All of a sudden that $100 doesn’t seem so expensive.

What experience do you have that is of equal importance in the business world? Do you recognize the value you bring to the table? Answer this question…if you weren’t there to do your job today – would someone be able to step in and produce the same quality in the same amount of time?

Probably not. Take a moment to recognize your value today.

Image courtesy of Mariana Galvão Lyra

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