My grandfather once asked me, “Bruce, why is experience the best teacher?” When I look befuddled and said, “I have no idea," he responded, “Because it is the most expensive!” Wow, what a clear insight into reality, how things really work.
If experience is the best teacher, and the most expensive, are there any shortcuts that can take us to “a better place” more efficiently and effectively? Let’s explore a sampling of the options.
Learning from others
The alternative to learning from our own painful and expensive experiences is learning from others.
Some of the ways we learn from others include:
- Professional journals
- Conferences and webinars
- Classes and courses of professional study
- The experience of others
One of the important ways we learn from others is digesting the aggregated information collected from peers about any given subject.
One useful way information is gathered and digested is through surveys.
Most of us are deluged with survey questions. It is important that we set some criteria for which survey we will answer, and which ones we won’t.
Here is a list of criteria for you to consider:
- Is it timely? We are all busy and sometimes we can prioritize, make the time available, the time, and sometimes we can’t. Simply acknowledging that reality is helpful.
- Is it relevant? Does the topic and content of the survey fit into a subject category that ties in with either my responsibilities and/or my priorities?
- Are the results important? Will the results of the survey inform me in a way that will be helpful either professionally or personally?
If the answers to all three questions are “yes," then participate. If not, “pass."
Applying the 3 criteria to the example
- Is it timely? If you are either a retirement plan administrator or have some oversight responsibility for your plan, or a member of an organization that thinks you need a plan, you will make time to answer a 12-minute survey on these topics. If not, you won’t.
- Is it relevant? Clearly, if your ministry responsibility includes benefits or the finances associated with them, you will answer yes. This includes the key members of an executive team, down to the pastor or administrator of a very small ministry. It is relevant. You will participate in the survey and look forward to learning the results.
- Are the results important? Knowing what others are doing provides a benchmark to evaluate and help define best practices as you consider implementin a new retirement plan. It also provides a gauge to measure what you are currently doing.
Keep in mind the three criteria the next time you are asked to take a survey:
Is it timely?
Is it relevant?
And are the results important?
You can get helpful, time-saving information from surveys. You can also waste time if they don’t fit the criteria. The unique insights are an important way to leapfrog the pain of your personal experience. Applying the criteria is a way to save time.
So, happy learning from the experiences of others.
- Bruce Bruinsma