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Development Value of Years of Experience


If we imagine life as a development path and plot the trajectory of development based on experiences, the graph could tell an interesting story and it would also influence how we write the rest of that story moving forward…

The Graph

The graph represents what is required to achieve desired results for each experience, first, second, etc., and what the individual has developed and is developing.

Experience axis variables are the significant life changes requiring different types and levels of capabilities for success


Capability axis variables are competency (red line), activity proficiency (green line), and domain expertise (blue line) expressed in two ways

  1. Solid lines: What the experience quires if you want to be effective (or successful) in achieving your desired results

  2. Dotted lines: What a hypothetical individual managed to develop and is demonstrating across the indicated time and unique experiences (first, second, etc.)

The competency, activity proficiency, and domain expertise view of capabilities can be used to appreciate the development value of life experiences, especially those that represent significant capability differences between current and previous experiences or current and next desired experiences.

By "life experiences", I am talking about things like:

  • Life (as a whole) and relationships: student, professional, marriage, own first child, etc

  • Educational: from secondary to college/university, post-graduate, etc or moving grades within each educational level, secondary level 1 to 2 or university year 1 to 2

  • Professional: first job, second job, along with the associated job grades and career levels, etc

And so on.


So, every experience has these three dimensions, domain, activity, and competency.

Competency is the dimension that directly correlates with the overall complexity level of the experience. Competency powers the development of domain expertise and activity proficiency to achieve results in that context and at that level of complexity while also drawing upon the available level of expertise and proficiency.


"Complexity" here refers to:

  1. The increasing level of ambiguity under which decisions have to be made and actions executed in pursuit of desired results

  2. The scope of the impact of decisions and actions, where scope refers to the number of people affected and over what time frame.

The capability profile variables are relative, not absolute, they simply indicate dimensions of specific differences in the nature and level of expertise or proficiency in relation to what can be achieved in that context.

What this means is that each experience will require a mix of the three capability variables at levels different from previous or other experiences. This comparative framework then provides a structure for individuals to make sense of the changes in the three variables required to achieve desired results in any experience, compared with experiences in the past or experiences anticipated in the future.


Here is the graph video with a couple more examples…

So, as you think about your current or next significant experiences, be intentional, be clear about what new results you can and should be trying to achieve, and pay attention to the capability dimensions demanded and the development opportunities afforded by the experience.


Be deliberate and reflective as you work towards the results, paying attention to your increasing levels of awareness and confidence in what you can do and achieve.


Possible Institutional Applications of this Thinking


An Example of a Specific Application to Professional Experiences

How do we turn professional experiences into these pathways of development and growth?


How do we design, configure and deploy a workplace curriculum such that, depending on how long an employee stays with the organization, they are able to discover their appetite for various development trajectories and leverage available experiences and configured support to develop and grow in that direction?


An Example of a Specific Application to Educational Experiences

How do we shift the emphasis or at least more directly highlight the true development and growth value of different educational experiences? With a particular focus on how these educational experiences support the development of competencies and proficiency in professional activities as a function of the holistic student experience.

The emphasis here is on the significant overlap between student and professional experiences. Also, there is a reframing of the requirements for work experience to more accurately recognize the professional capabilities developed through student experiences.



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