SALT LAKE CITY — When Liz Wiseman was 24, she was asked to take on a job most people her age would quickly turn down because of lack of experience and confidence.
Only a year out of business school, Wiseman was asked to build a corporate university for Oracle, an online management training service. Her only qualification was that she “had recently been at a university,” Wiseman said during the 2017 RootsTech Innovator Summit opening session on Wednesday in the Salt Palace.
She faced many incredulous stares and skepticism when she took on the role. But she countered the prevalent disbelief with this assertion: “Who wants a job that you’re qualified for? There’d be absolutely nothing to learn.”
Wiseman, who is president of The Wiseman Group and author of "Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work," shared during the Innovator Summit some of her research and counsel about how being in a rookie frame of mind can actually lead to more success and satisfaction.
“Are we actually at our very best when we know the very least?" Wiseman asked her audience members to consider.
She explained how she showed up every week at all the staff meetings, constantly asking questions so she could figure out what she needed to do to run Oracle University.
“It was my naiveté that forced me to deliver fast,” she said.
The beauty of taking on tasks and responsibilities with a rookie mindset is that it leads to operating in ways that are simple, but incredibly powerful, Wiseman said. Although being an expert is the goal to aspire to in the professional world, it also comes with serious liabilities, she said.
“With experience we gain knowledge and confidence,” Wiseman stated. “But we stop seeing outside the box.”
Wiseman outlined four “rookie smart modes and mindsets” in her presentation: the backpacker, the hunter-gatherer, the firewalker and the pioneer.
The backpacker represents the person who steps optimistically into a new role, essentially because that person has no idea what the job actually entails, she said.
The rookie then turns into the hunter-gatherer, who lacks knowledge but reaches out and gathers expertise from others in an effort to succeed.
A firewalker moves quickly but cautiously. The rookie then proceeds cautiously but quickly until becoming like a pioneer — resourceful and relentless.
Wiseman explained how it is through this process that people tend to do their best work, often outperforming those with greater qualifications and experience. People with a rookie frame of mind also tend to be more satisfied, she said.
Wiseman encouraged members of her audience to “inject some innovation in (their) thinking” by asking more questions, not being afraid to admit when they don’t know something and even volunteering to complete tasks for which they are unqualified.
She said those who take on the work of family history embody the innovative, rookie mindset because they are constantly looking for more information and are always on a drive to discover.
She recalled how her own family history had been an influence in her path to accomplishment, with her grandfather being a great example of the innovative rookie who became a success story “because of what he lacked” in moving to a new location without much support and pursuing a unique career.
FamilySearch International President and CEO Steve Rockwood also spoke about the power of family history in the opening session of the RootsTech conference.
He said learning from family history has the power to uplift the lives of everyone — young or old, rookie or expert.
While diving into family history for the first time can be a daunting task, it is set up to accommodate everyone because all people should have the chance to experience the “wonderful emotions, the discipline and the results of family history,” Rockwood said.
With the internet and a continuous stream of technological innovation, family history is more present, accessible and informative than it has ever been, Rockwood said. It can seep into daily, mundane tasks and transform something ordinary into a meaningful experience.
He encouraged audience members to “attach the results of family history” to activities in their daily lives — from discovering the stories behind certain family recipes to learning about the significance of family vacation spots.
Rockwood said innovative thinking in the field of family history has even led to mending and healing broken hearts, as prisoners have been able to take part in the work of family indexing.
“Imagine how we would all look at each other and treat each other if we knew how we were connected,” he said. “Family history has the ability to enhance everyone's lives."