Knowledge versus Experience

Author: Marco C. Janssen, UTInnovation, the Netherlands

The world seems to be spinning faster every day as new technologies are thrown at us at an ever-accelerating rate making our lives "more connected," "easier," "with more profound experiences," "cheaper...?"
It appears that the race for new ideas has found a new way of speeding itself up exponentially and people are continuously pushed to go beyond themselves.
Creating new solutions for the world requires a combination of knowledge and experience is what I was told at university. But what is knowledge and what defines experience?
As my mentor once taught me- the difference between knowledge and experience is that:

Knowledge is knowing what is possible and Experience is knowing what is impossible

This phrase has stuck in my mind as it explains a number of things in one simple phrase.
For example, it explains why young people are often full of energy and a drive to change the world as "nothing is impossible" at the same time many older people are grumpy and repeat over and over again why certain things will never work as "they are not possible".
One cannot deny that there is value in experience, in the sense that experience teaches you to recognize problems sooner and permit you to act and avoid or mitigate them faster.
At the same time a positive drive based on the motto that nothing is impossible, pushes the world forward in its search for new and better solutions.
It is for this reason I think that regardless of your age and level of experience you should never lose that drive to search for solutions as everything is possible when you put your mind into it.
Yet at the same time use the lessons taught by experience to find these solutions quicker and look for better solutions over all.

Experience is often used to kill ideas and destroy people's ambitions and positive drive. Using it as an unbreakable barrier based on phrases like "that is not the way things work around here" or "you can tell that you have little experience otherwise you would know that this will never work."
People that use such phrases should look into a mirror and ask themselves what happened to their drive to change the world?

Of course, at the same time, it is wise to listen to experience and use it as an input to validate your approach, your idea, your solution. There are valuable lessons from the past that one should not simply ignore as they can save people from creating major disasters or falling into the same pitfall as many have before them.
So, for those of us looking to change the world and who thrive on change and innovation, please use your knowledge to push forward and use the experiences that you gain along the way as your guide to do things right the first time, avoid major mistakes, keep your "eye on the ball" and truly make this world a better place for all of us.


Marco C. Janssen is the CEO of UTInnovation LLC and the Director of the Smart Grid PMO at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. He received his BSc degree in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic in Arnhem, Netherlands and has worked for over 27 years in the field of Smart Grid, Protection, Control, Monitoring, Advanced Metering Infrastructures, Distribution and Substation Automation. He was a member of IEC TC57 WG 10, 17, 18, 19, the IEEE PES PSRC and CIGRE B5 and D2 WGs. He was the convenor of D2.35 and editor of the Quality Assurance Program for the Testing Subcommittee of the UCA International Users Group. He holds one patent, has authored more than 58 papers, is co-author of four Cigre Technical Brochures and two books on Smart Grids and Electrical Power Substations Engineering and is the author of the “I Think” column in the PAC World magazine.

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