Is Experience More Important than Knowledge?

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Experience is valuable in every facet of life. We see it in sports, life, on the job, in government. Experience counts.

When a Quarterback fresh out of College leads the NFL in interceptions, both fans and the team are like, “it’s just the learning curve, we’ll get those other teams next year.” When a 5-year veteran Quarterback leads the NFL in interceptions, everyone’s like he’s got to go.

In his heyday, if Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in the Division title game, no one ever blamed him. Even fans knew the team had put too much on his shoulders late into the fourth quarter.

When the Indianapolis Colts eventually won a title under Tony Dungy, it was because the defense did not put too much on Peyton’s shoulders. The defense showed up, played like a great defense, won the MVP as a collective (if I remember correctly), let Peyton play as well as we all knew he could.

Peyton played the game like the quintessential Quarterback. The New England Patriots are good, play to win. Peyton, Tony Dungy, and the Indianapolis Colts played football. Damn the possibility of mistakes, they were going to give fans a good game.

When the Patriots suck in the defense with all of those dunk passes, then throw the ball deep to a wide open receiver, it is strategy genius. When Peyton threads the ball into the hands of Marvin Harrison while Marvin is running in step with a Cornerback, it’s football.

But consider that man traveled in space before space was experienced. The mathematical calculations, the propulsions needed, the thrust reversals required for landing, the heat shields required for descent through the earth’s atmosphere on return, all calculated ever before the astronauts took off for the moon.

When it comes to traversing space, knowledge trumps experience. Without knowledge of what the experience ought to be, the experience never materializes.

In the world of artistry, such as playing tennis, quarterbacking a football team, playing basketball professionally, being a father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or cousin, experience always trumps knowledge.

It’s the reason work experience is considered valuable. The experienced person is expected to have better mastery of the artistry of the position. Absent production of new knowledge within the educational system, the experienced person typically knows more than the new graduate.

In the realm of the physical sciences, knowledge trumps experience, knowledge creates new experiences. It was knowledge that created cars, trains, aeroplanes, not experience. If it was experience, they would not have been innovations.

The knowledge that creates experience does not necessarily reside in classrooms. In economies with vibrant educational systems, however such knowledge typically originates within the educational system. The knowledge comes from the minds of people, knowledge not previously articulated, knowledge that transforms our experiences. Think Newton, Curie, Einstein Boyle etc., all people whose knowledge changed our experience. There were people more experienced in Physics than Newton or Einstein, in Chemistry than either of Boyle or Curie, yet their knowledge changed humanity’s experiences.

Consider the stock market. Stocks are priced using valuation models. Stocks are a science. Given humans come up with the assumptions for their valuations, however, there is science — valuation models — and artistry, inputs into the valuation models.

Without experiencing the stock market as an investment banker or stock trader, a person with knowledge can help improve valuation of stocks. This is much the same as a physicist enables travel in space without himself or herself ever stepping into space. In the development of valuation models for stocks, knowledge is more important than experience. If society seeks stock prices that are as objective as possible, it will celebrate good models produced by academics.

So does

experience trump knowledge?

Yes and No.

In the world of artistry, experience is king. In the world of science, technology, and valuations, knowledge is king. So then in life we need some experience, and we need some new knowledge.

The way to new knowledge is to not always demand experience as precursor to knowledge. Sometimes knowledge is creator of new ‘experience’, is creator of new ways of seeing things.

Without ‘new’ in the world, there always is stagnation. Where there is stagnation, there eventually is reversal of progress. Societies that understand essence of good progression in society understand importance of being open to ‘new’ that is credible, ‘new’ that is demonstration of knowledge, ‘new’ that has yet to be experienced by anyone, perhaps not even by the source of what is ‘new’.

Knowledge is not always more important than experience. Where there ceases to be any new knowledge, however, eventually experience becomes worthless.

Written by

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos

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