The value of knowledge and experience in all areas of life

September 8, 2016 - Posted by: admin - In category:

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Do you and I appreciate the importance of experience and expertise?  

In this internet age, it is easy for us to believe that Google can make us an expert on just about anything. While I am as much a fan of Google and other internet resources as the next person, I see quite often the difference between knowing a few facts and ideas and understanding how to use such information.  The ability to wisely apply knowledge is gained over time, through experience.  The intrinsic value of wisdom and experience are difficult to quantify.

I recently received the following story from a professional adviser with whom I work often (and who is a good friend).  While I see this in the context of what I do for a living and believe that it is highly applicable to things such as law, accounting, medicine, dentistry, car repair and just about any other profession, it also applies in other areas of our lives.  Check it out:

An engine for a very large ocean vessel failed and no one could fix it (after much time and many attempts). Then, a man with forty years of experience was enlisted for assistance. He inspected the engine carefully, top to bottom. After looking things over, the elderly gentlemen reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. The engine was fixed!  Seven days later, the owners of the ship received an invoice for $10,000. ‘What?!’ the owners said ‘You hardly did anything.’  They then responded to the mechanic with a demand for an itemized bill.  A few days later, the owners received a reply which stated: Tapping with a hammer, $2. Knowing where to tap, $9,998.  

Some people view professionals in the light of work product (i.e. the value of parts and tools and end product) and the amount of time being spent on a job. Indeed, much of my work-life over the past two decades has been spent billing by the hour (or minute, as the case may be).  At other times, I have worked on a fixed-fee basis. On occasion, I have saved clients tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars through the application of my knowledge and experience.  While that may seem like bragging, it is nevertheless true.  Likewise, I know that many of my accounting and financial adviser colleagues are involved on a regular basis in decisions which save many, many dollars for their clients, or correspondingly, which lead to many dollars in profit for their clients.  Here again, such expertise is often used in an efficient manner that is not equivalent to the value received.  In other words, the key information can sometimes be dispensed and the important work can often be done in a small amount of time.  But if such knowledge and effort results in savings of thousands of dollars, should the relevant professional be paid minimum wage times the number of minutes spent?

When you and I go to see a doctor, do we pay him or her such high fees because of the magazines in the waiting area or the gauze or tongue depressors in the exam area?  Even though we often spend only a few minutes with our physician, during those few minutes we benefit from the training and experience of our doctor. Therefore, understand that we (or our insurance) are required to pay for the same.  Why is there such a disconnect in this concept when we leave the medical field and go to other professions?

Going back to the original story about the ship and the elderly gentlemen with the hammer–consider the fact that the engine of the ship and the vessel itself has a value in the millions of dollars.  That is, an operational ship is worth a great deal.  A vessel which cannot move because of a faulty engine is not worth much.  A new engine for a large ocean vessel is VERY expensive.  Given those realities, a $10,000 repair bill is really quite minimal in comparison.  The ship owners should have been quick to see and appreciate these things and much less inclined to worry about the hourly rate of the worker who had just, for all practical purposes, saved them many, many times the amount of the bill.  You and I should learn to be more wise than these foolish ship owners.

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