Experts are held in esteem. To be an amateur on the other hand, is not as attractive. Often the word amateur is used as a condescending term for an unprofessional person whose actions are questioned. Still, I claim we need more amateurs in our organizations to succeed with continuous improvement.
If we take a closer look at the meaning of the word amateur we will find that it actually describes a person who does what he or she does for the love of doing it, because the activity itself is joyful and fun. Something will be fun when you yourself take part in shaping the activities and the goal they will lead to and when you learn and create in an environment where it’s okay to fail. When using traditional methods for educating improvement experts, we often put too much emphasis on theory and not enough on making it fun. We present sophisticated methods and tools, but forget that it is the degree of joy and fun that determines if there will be any activity at all.
My suggestion is that we instead of trying to create organizations full of experts should start by creating organizations full of amateurs. Here are three reasons why I think so:
1. An amateur will find the way forward. When an amateur encounters obstacles he or she will enthusiastically seek for alternative ways forward or for solutions to clear the obstacle.
2. An amateur will ask for your help. To be able to help someone that person must be open to your help. When an amateur encounters really difficult challenges he or she will ask for help from more experienced people. This gives you the opportunity to coach the amateur, teach new methods and thereby strengthen the amateur’s improvement competence.
3. An amateur eventually becomes an expert. An amateur who with joy explores a new subject will over time develop the experience and skill of an expert. Nobody becomes an expert without first being an amateur, but amateurs who develop their ability for a long time becomes passionate experts.
With an organization full of passionate improvement experts, you will succeed with continuous improvement, but don’t forget what the first step of the journey is!