Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 1

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 1: The New Need to Learn – and Our Mixed Response

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses the rationale of why being bad first is so essential for today’s world. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

The amount of knowledge acquired by humans has been growing exponentially. This explosion of knowledge, and the technological, scientific, and cultural advances that have resulted, have also dramatically changed how we learn and work.

The advance in knowledge acquisition also hastens the pace of change, both societal and personal. The rate of change means that our career progression is much different from our parent’s. Conversely, our children’s career progression will look very different from ours.

The same shift – from stability to fluidity – has happened on an organizational level. In the early 20th century, the business landscape was dominated by big companies we all assumed would last forever. Instead, many of those companies have been replaced by successful enterprises that have arisen from new technologies spawned by new knowledge.

“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage,” said Arie de Geus.

The proliferation of knowledge and options over the past centuries and supported by the most potent knowledge distribution mechanism to date, the Internet, means:

            More Knowledge = More Communication = More Knowledge

Given all this, it seems clear that those who can acquire and apply new knowledge and skills quickly and continuously will likely succeed in today’s world. We face a reality where knowledge is increasing exponentially, where work is changing daily, and where advancements in every area of discipline nearly our ability to communicate. The natural conclusion is that the ability to learn well and quickly is the essential skill we can have.

While we may realize intellectually that being successful these days requires being open to continuous, disruptive learning, that does not mean we like this way of life. Change is hard for most people to deal with, and we naturally often resist learning new things. Moreover, we dislike the feeling of being a newbie over and over.

We don’t like being thrown into that “be bad first” position when we need to learn new things. As adults, we don’t want to do what feels like going backward, to being novices all over again. So a key question we need to ask ourselves is: How can we overcome our hesitation and our resistance to new learning to become those “masters of mastery” who will best succeed in the 21st century?

The good news is that we have all got something inside us that will help. We may hate to be bad at things – but we love getting at things.