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by J. Vazquez

February 13th, 2019

I recently read a presentation by Liz Wiseman on the Power of Not Knowing, and that lead me to reading a number of related blogs. A blog on the subject does a great job summarizing the concepts of her book, Rookie Smarts.


I don’t know when the blog was written, but the book is not new (it was published in 2014). When I read it, I immediately wanted to use it as the topic of conversation for one of our monthly “company culture” breakfast meetings I have with our employees here at 3DENT.


As an educator, I have always been fond of learning (and teaching) and I have tried to cultivate this concept in our employees. But, I hadn’t focused on the stated benefits of having a rookie mentality.

I was shocked when I took their Rookie Smarts Quiz and was told that my answers put me in the “Burt out zone,” as I consider myself very much a pro-learning person, and one willing to admit when I don’t know. In fact, this reminds me of something I wrote a couple of years ago in a 3DENT newsletter article.


I believe that as consultants, we are expected to portray a degree of expertise and unfortunately, we associate expertise with “knowing” not “learning.” This self-imposed rigidity ends up killing innovation. As Frank Lloyd Wright put it, “an expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows,’” (see

Quoted from our July 2016 newsletter article entitled Learning – Part 1

Learning vs Knowing.png

Interestingly enough, of the four employees we have at 3DENT, three of them were hired with no engineering work experience - two of them fresh out of graduate school. I used to tell them that my goal was to teach them everything I knew so that I’d be free to learn something else, and that I wished that they’d eventually do the same once they became experts in a given topic. By now, they all routinely do things I can’t do and while I don’t claim to have learned a lot, I do believe that I have learned a thing or two in the almost 6 years since we started 3DENT.


While having the discussion over breakfast, I was a bit surprised that the book’s message was not immediately accepted by our young staff. They somehow insisted that due to my experience, I’d arrive at the correct answer far faster than they would, regardless of the amount of energy they brought into it. After some examples and more conversation, we agreed that even better than having rookies in an organization, having experienced people be willing to ask the questions that a rookie would ask, or having this person provide general guidance to the rookies instead of giving them prescriptions on how to solve problems is much better.


The more I read about this, the more I realized that the characteristics described in Rookie Smarts sounded like something I heard a long time ago – “the immigrant mentality” which is characterized by the concept of essentially “being willing to do whatever extra work is required to get the job done, and doing it with humility.” In his INC. article on this subject, Julian-Hayes lists the three immigrant characteristics key to success:


  1. Embrace jumping into new environments

  2. Forge your identity based on passion and hard work

  3. Be willing to put your ego aside


All three characteristics seem to go with what a Rookie mentality brings to the table. Don’t they?

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