Does Experience Matter?

While waiting for my haircut, I read an article in Time magazine which asks the question “how much experience is necessary?”

They’re talking about Obama, naturally. He has the least experience but apparently the most public support (I know that’s hugely debatable but he’s winning in the media at least).

The print edition of the article has a nifty graphic which shows all of the U.S. Presidents with a breakdown of the “experience” they had. Then the article breaks off and asks the question which I am asking you to answer.

Would you prefer a doctor who has practiced medicine for 30 years or just 10? (Assume the experience is post-education)

8 thoughts on “Does Experience Matter?

  1. Alexander

    When I had brain surgery we chose a neurosurgeon who has over 30 years of experience and was a leader in his field. So, I’d say experience does matter in that sense.

    But you’d need a lot of experience to say that you’re fit to be the President of a nation like the United States IMO.

  2. Thomas Chapin

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
    -Lord Acton

    If this is the case, then picking a politician who has the most experience is kind of like picking an expert thief and liar, someone whom has potentially become corrupt and jaded and over the years has learned how to manipulate the system for their own benefit.

    I think I’d rather have someone like Mr. Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, who completely lacks experience, but makes up for it with pure gumption and conviction.

  3. Austin

    Yeah, I am going to say 10 years is equal or better than 30. I have had some of the best doctors in the world work on me and while some of the most experienced were great (possibly Alexander’s Neurosurgeon if it was in Phoenix) some of them were too focused on their own specialties to see what was really going on. In these cases (which there were a few) I found that their experience had detached them from seeing the obvious, and I don’t want to see that continue to happen.

    I think that a great worker isn’t the person who has been doing it the longest, but who is capable of knowing who the right people are to get the right job done.

    Regarding Presidential candidates, I wouldn’t know who would actually work well. Obama at least SAYS that’s what he would do. Everyone else just keeps saying that they have the experience to do the job right from day one. (whatever that means)

    I think I am still going to vote for Ron Paul.

  4. mister jason™

    10 years. Every time. Without a doubt. (disclaimer: my wife’s a doc) Newer doctors tend to be have more recent familiarity with things. Much of the knowledge a physician needs is based on reading and research (which changes all the time). A doctor at 10 years benefits from less baggage of knowledge that’s based on outdated information.

    @Alexander: Surgeous are a different animal altogether. :) I’d pick the more experienced codger, too.

  5. Matthew F

    Just like mister jason said, definitely 10 years. I’ve worked with a lot of doctors professionally, and the ones with 30 years experience (a) tend not to be up on the latest research, and (b) tend to be so set in their understanding of their field that they have a hard time seeing out of their boxes.

  6. Jeff

    I agree with what’s been said. Another point to add would be the “Old dog new tricks” dilemma. Old dogs tend to do things they way they knew how back in the day, and have a hard time accommodating change for the better. A less experienced person is typically still figuring things out, and probing and learning new ways to do things better. Both have value, it depends on the context and situation.

  7. Mark

    I’m going to take a little different direction with the doctor question. I have a tendency to look more at the hospital they are associated with more than their personal experience.

    Give me a doctor who has easy and immediate access to the research, resources, reputation and expertise and I’ll weigh his personal experience secondarily, because shoddy docs don’t usually get employed with the highest rated hospitals.

    Same with the candidates. I’ll vote for the one who I think can bring in the staff to get things done. Aside from that, the only experience he / she needs is being a figurehead who well represents the needs and desires of the governed.

  8. Jim

    How is it “hugely debatable” that Obama has the most public support? He has the most votes in the primaries and caucuses of any candidate in either party. He at least has the most public support of those that vote. That’s a plain and simple fact.

    When people want a change, experience in the system that they want changed is probably not seen as a big plus. So the argument comes off as a little misguided and weak to start with.

    Also, would you consider someone who was married to a brain surgeon for eight years to have eight years of brain surgery experience? I think Clinton has rather oversold exactly what her experience is and we’ve been undersold on Obama’s experience. He has actually held elected office longer than her. He helped organize labor and voters in poor Chicago neighborhoods and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. This breadth and depth of experience would ensure that he wouldn’t be a president that is surprised to learn that they use a price scanner at the grocery store. Yet, he is able to talk more intelligently about complex topics than any of the other candidates.

    For me, a person’s effectiveness would be a better way to judge a candidate for president. Clinton started a campaign with the most resources: monetary, contacts/organizational, and still has (mis)managed her way to second place. Obama, who started with relatively little, has managed an upset by bringing new voters to the polls. I think this demonstrates that he does have a set of skills that could help him effect real change in Washington.

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