July 17, 2011

Business is always fascinating for me.

I have seen experts in business behaving like novices. They ask questions not because they don’t know but because they either want to confirm what they know or in asking questions they get to know more.

And then there are the novices. They tend to act and behave like experts. They don’t want to ask too many questions for fear of being found out that they are not experts after all. And then there are those who may know a little but would open their mouths and voice unwanted opinions and offer unsolicited advice to the consternation of many.

I have met all three kinds of people in business. And this is what I have observed. Whether we’re talking about wine tasting, manufacturing, culinary or even in business consultancy work, the connoisseur and the novice sees things differently.

The experts look at a product, a service or even a business case and he or she sees the differences, a novice on the other hand sees the similarities. Where a connoisseur can discern subtle shades of distinction based on nuanced asymmetries, an amateur lacks the necessary filters to canvas, to organize, to sift an assortment in a meaningful way.

The novice or the amateur struggles to look for the beginning, middle or the end and meanwhile the expert can navigate a category with effortless intuition.

I look into the cosmetics department in a department store and all I see are similar products of similar shades, featuring similar packaging with different brands and prices. But the Ilocana (my wife Lilia) can see the distinction between one lipstick with another. It’s obvious I am a novice and she is an expert. My wife couldn’t understand why I fancy this watch brand compared to another when all she sees are the hour hand, the minute hand and the second hand and numbers and gears and they all look the same. This is why in this area she becomes a novice.

At the heart of business success is the ability to compete; the ability to compete, in turn, is dependent on the ability to differentiate from competitors.

Differentiate or die, or so the saying goes. And yet when a category reaches a point where there are a growing number of consumers skeptical about the differences between products and brands, the differentiation within the category is at risk of being rendered meaningless.

The market is no longer composes of amateurs. They have matured and thus we have the term: “A maturing market.” The “new Improved,” tag attached to the same products no longer appeal to those who do not only see the similarities but those who understand the differences.

The difference between novices and experts apply in all aspects of life. Singers and speakers like me are not exempted.  Amateurs practice until they can get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

Wannabe experts are so obvious because no matter how hard they try in getting it right the wrongs still show. But this is a stage everyone has to go through.

  • Famous Olympian Nadia Comaneci says: “If I work on a certain move constantly, then finally, it doesn’t seem risky to me. The idea is that the move stays dangerous and it looks dangerous to my foes, but it is not to me. Hard work has made it easy.”
  • Louis Nizer says it best when he said: “A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”

Whether you are in business or you are in a profession, start from being a novice but you need to work your way up to being a professional. Do not make false claims and do not invent credentials. Study. Learn. Work hard and then you will not only begin to see the differences in your craft, you actually do things and get things right!




This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Zara

    Great post! I like this. This helps a lot in every individual who’s ever interested in venturing businesses. This reminds me of a process that each eventually take–change/ improvements. Only change is constant in this world. And when you start with small and work with determination and patience, you will soon find success and happiness along your way. =)


    Enlightening !!! As a businessman, it is really important that if you want to make it to the competitive world., you have to improve yourself consistently. You cannot always fake yourself to the top, soon you will get caught. You need substance

  3. mikel

    what an inspiring thought.

    1. Francis Kong

      Thank you so much for your kind encouragement Erik. You are very kind.

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