You've been in the business for 20 years. So what?

You've got experience. A lot of it. But remember, unless you have constantly updated your skills and your knowledge, all that experience amounts to is trying to solve today's problems with yesterday's answers. I you do this, you're a has-been: one of the geriatric smug buggers; ageing know-it-all who still holds a key position in an ailing company.

I've met a lot of these ooms. Having been around since Noah, they insist they've seen and one it all. They reckon that their years in business gives them the right to pooh-pooh any suggestions that smack of innovation and youth. Indeed, they assert that they can hold their own with so-called brash upstarts in any field of endeavour.

An ageing sales manager made many crafty attempts to date one of his representatives, someone young and shapely.

"Where have you been all my life?" he purred.
"Well," replied the young beauty, "for the first 40 years I probably wasn't born."
This is the sort of put-down oldsters are likely to encounter if they can't provide creative solutions to current business problems in today's terms.

However, if you want the business to make like the Titanic, keep die ou toppies on board. Many of them joined the business when it first opened its doors. They've worked their way up into their present exalted positions by enthusiastically subscribing to the old management tenet of: "Yes, Sir. No, Sir. Ulcer."

They've never indulged in personal retooling their outdated expertise to cope with change. They don't see the need to.

"I've had 20 years of experience in this business, son," they'll tell you without much prompting. What they don't tell you is that they've actually had one year of experience, which they've repeated 20 times.

This brings to mind a couple of business truisms:

 

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"The man who rests on his laurels is wearing them in the wrong place."
 

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"There's no fool like an old fool - it's the experience that makes them so proficient."
 

You'll also find that people bursting with outmoded experience view innovations introduced by competitors, who are rapidly displacing your position in the marketplace, as "fads". Despite technological breakthroughs and new methods, which constantly change the face of business, they persist in living in "the good old days' when men were men and women danced backwards.

The need to constantly re-educate themselves so that they can keep abreast of fast-breaking changes and improvements escape them. Henry Ford said that anyone who stops learning is old whether he or she happens to be 20 or 80.

Bluntly speaking, these people who are old in thought but not necessarily in years are terrified of change. These fossils of a bygone era, when Mom and Pop stores of various sizes reigned supreme, are easy to spot. You often find them in the back rows at company conferences, where they swop yarns on the relative merits of the haemorrhoids operations and the line-up for next week's bowls tournament. They're also the types who can take three hours off for lunch without anyone missing them.

In a nutshell, what this is all about is replacing traditional, inefficient corporate bureaucracy with the entrepreneurial spirit. Normally, company policies in a company structured on conventional pyramidal lines work against people taking responsibility for what they do. The business bumbles along on the "it's not my fault" syndrome.

The only way out of the impasse is by continually upgrading knowledge and learning new skills; by personally taking charge of your own business retooling programme.

However, if you want to go down with the ship, ditch the lifeboats you need to keep afloat in the age of imagination and sink with the experienced you-can't-teach-us-anything types.

To hasten your slide into oblivion, follow these 10 doom-laden suggestions:
 

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Always assume that your initial level of skill, which landed you the job, will be sufficient forever.
 

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Insist on doing the job as it has always been done, despite innovations in technology and methodology.
 

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Do not be tempted to part from the old fashioned straight and narrow, no matter how tempting the rewards or how minimal the risks.
 

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Make it your business to manipulate people to do it your way, no matter how outdated and inefficient.
 

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Resist all attempts to retain and retool yourself for the new business era.
 

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Assume that, based on your years of experience, the business owes you a living for life.
 

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Stick to well-trodden paths, even if they lead to an abyss.
 

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Always shift the blame for foul-ups elsewhere.
 

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Become a fault-finding addict. Never see any good in anything that departs from your time-worn norms.
 

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Habitually adopt a negative attitude. Keep telling yourself and anyone who'll listen: "I love my job; it's the work I hate."
 

  Introduction
     
1. I thought I made it clear
     
2. Let's not rock the boat
     
3. We tried that once before
     
4. Who cares? It's the company time after all
     
5. I'm the boss. Do as I say
     
6. I can't stand change
     
7. We made the cuts, now lets get back to work
     
8. I'll do it as soon as possible
     
9. I prefer to work alone
     
10. Speaking as a Nestlé man
     
11. Get him on the line!
     
12. I've got 20 years experience
     
13. Let's keep it confidential
     
     
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