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Bridging the Gap
May 21, 2020

How to Bottle and Distribute ‘Beginner’s Luck’ in Challenging Times

Bridging the Gap

During challenging times, sales reps need to tap into the collective wisdom of their peers and other subject matter experts. Veteran salespeople who have worked through previous downturns can reassure newcomers that this too shall pass. But seasoned colleagues can also learn from the fresh perspectives of beginners.

Is there really such a thing as beginner’s luck? Will a novice chess player frequently beat a grandmaster? Will a newbie salesperson typically outperform a grizzled veteran? If so, could beginner’s luck be bottled and distributed to benefit individuals and organizations?

The short answers are: no, no, no and yes.

The widespread belief in beginner’s luck – whereby novices disproportionately outperform experienced pros – is a myth. However, rank amateurs sometimes beat top professionals and, more important, beginners often display more creativity when it comes to problem-solving.

It’s this problem-solving creativity that can be dissected, captured and shared to help teams maintain momentum in challenging times.

The Outsider Advantage

As a rule, experience and expertise offer a big competitive advantage. However, there are situations in which expertise and experience can actually cloud our judgment, limit our imaginations and stifle our ability to devise new solutions.

In these situations, it’s the newbies—the “outsiders” free of professional and experiential preconceptions—who may have a competitive advantage. Over the years, scientists have uncovered several explanations for why this happens:

1. Déformation professionelle. This is a cognitive bias that prevents people from seeing the world the way most people see it. Instead, they see the world through the lens of their profession. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can distort the way in which we judge our environment and other people. It can also limit our problem-solving abilities. For example: a veteran sales rep with déformation professionelle might fail to consider the emotional needs of prospects, and instead pitch only the economic benefits of the product.

2. Functional fixedness. This cognitive bias causes people to use objects (especially tools) in only traditional, standard ways. In a classic functional-fixedness experiment, participants were given a candle, a matchbook and a box of tacks, and then asked to affix the candle to a vertical surface so it could easily burn. Researchers found that adults and older children were significantly slower to use the tack box as a shelf for the candle when compared with five-year-olds. The upshot: people with more experience of what an object was originally designed for were less likely to devise a creative solution. Hence, a veteran clinician with functional fixedness might never pursue “off-label” uses for a drug (Viagra is a famous example of an off-label use), and a sales rep might not notice valuable new applications for training software.

3. Procedural memory. Similar to “muscle memory,” procedural memory is something that develops with repeated practice. Over time, you’re able to quickly perform specific procedures (like tying your shoes) without having to consciously think about them. Normally, this is a good thing, but in certain situations, hard-wired routines can cause you to make mistakes—to quickly act without thinking whether the memorized procedure is the right solution. By contrast, someone new to the field will have no procedural memory, and will probably put more creative thought into possible solutions.

Get Second Opinions

Being aware of these cognitive biases is a first step toward overcoming them—toward actually seeing the novel solutions that might be staring you right in the face.

The second step is getting second opinions and feedback.

For sales reps, “beginner’s luck” comes from soliciting fresh opinions and ideas from subject matter experts and peers. This exposes them to alternate visions and approaches, helping them see the world with a fresh pair of eyes.

For these reasons, many experts recommend that people tackle problems in group settings. In a group, reps can hear from newbies and seasoned pros, debate ideas and discuss best practices. And if they aren’t able to physically get together in the same place at the same time, they can use tools such as Allego’s learning and readiness platform to gather and share new ideas and best practices.

With Allego, every sales rep can instantly access the collective wisdom of their peers and other subject matter experts so that a second opinion is always within reach. Veteran salespeople can tap the fresh perspectives of beginners, and beginners can absorb the experience and expertise of seasoned colleagues.

When there’s instability in every industry, you need clear communication and greater collaboration among peers and managers. This is how your organization can make and distribute its own “beginner’s luck.”

Learn More

Watch our on-demand sales webinar to learn how technology can help maintain your momentum in today’s uncertain climate: How to Reassure Client-Facing Teams in Turbulent Times.

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