Monthly Archives: January, 2017

The Value of Experience

Experience by itself teaches nothing… Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.

― W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education

fAnd yet I routinely hear people declare “I’ve been doing this for 30 years!” Experience is particular; shaped by chance causes; unique to an individual. It by itself cannot be generalized. To do that you need theory.

Theory links “what” (experience) to “how” (process). It can be tested in diverse circumstances. If it produces expected outcomes, it is useful. It can be shared and used with confidence. Theory builds understanding. Shared understanding, not shared experience, leads to individual empowerment, personal responsibility and accountability, and cooperation.

Declarations like that above are nothing more than chest-thumping meant to discourage inquiry and end debate. Instead of building faith they further mistrust. They ask obedience not understanding. They are an exercise of power and authority. Territorial. Protectionist.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people who appeal to experience alone have no credibility with me. I view them as ignorant and hold them in the lowest possible regard.