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Knowledge, experience and the whole person's repertoire

Build your repertoire to be that expert!

Have you ever wondered how it can be that someone can make a quick decision with so little information and be right, when we labour day and night with all the information and yet be wrong? And this is not just a lucky break; it is a consistently right decision when we cannot even make one! What is going on here?

As it turns out, it is a little bit of personality and a lot more repertoire. Let me talk about repertoire first.

Repertoire is the sum total of the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that a person has in his chosen field. Some people frown on job hoppers but they have a breadth of experience that deeply experienced ones might not. While deep experience is important, deep experience in one organisation, in one field is actually quite limiting. Now I don't suggest that you quit your 25-year job at GE after reading this, but it does beg a question if your 25 years had been in one department. You will know a lot on a very small subject. Not good when it comes to repertoire building.

Let me take a former colleague as an example. She is a very talented finance person, and she worked at two of the Big Four firms in audit before joining our company. You might think that she will be straighter than a laser beam, with no diversity in her thinking, right? But no! Apparently she grew up in a family business, and that provided her with a wealth of experience that her finance background can now flourish within. Not only is she the smartest person I know in the company, she is the most versatile in her thinking. And while she is in charge of the beans, she even knows how to sow and harvest them. She has a huge repertoire that will stand her in excellent stead wherever she goes.

So while we applaud steadfastness in employment, we rejoice when a person moves on to build even more experience and resilience in his career.

But what of the personality part?

If you have done your SQI, you will have received your report which tells you of your behavioiural traits. One such trait is sensing. Sensing is the ability to use one's gut instinct to make a decision. A person who is high in sensing trusts his gut more than others. It could be due to upbringing, prior experience or a personal preference. Yet sensing can be developed. One way is to be more comfortable with risks. If one can dance at the precipice of success and failure, one will be able to develop that part in him, thereby increasing his gut instinct.

Is the gut instinct always right? According to Daniel Kahneman, who was the first man to win the Nobel Prize for economics, he says "Yes, but..." Yes, he is always right within the domain of his expertise. But outside of that, he is not right.

Ultimately, as we put these two together, you will find that you can be that superman in your area of speciality if you build your knowledge and experience, seeking simultaneously to build expertise and breadth, taking risks that will let you skirt disaster on the way to success. Is that a tall order? I don't know; my former colleague did it ... as did I! It is not difficult. Why not give it a try?

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