The Agile Team: Why Learning Beats Knowing

By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Monster Resource Center
This article was originally posted on and published October, 2014.

In her latest book, author and researcher Liz Wiseman presents a solid case for why, in today’s fast-changing workplace, not knowing can be more valuable than knowing.

The book’s title echoes this message: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. In it, Wiseman presents a case for hiring rookies -- be they young or mature professionals -- who embody Steve Job’s now famous commencement advice to “stay hungry; stay foolish.”

The key to creating an agile and successful team, says Wiseman, is to keep people on a learning curve, rather than a straight line. The result is a renewed, relevant and engaged workforce.
In this Monster interview, Wiseman relays how today’s top companies are doing just that.

Monster: Your book, Rookie Smarts, advocates for hiring rookies. Are you saying Millennials make the best hires?

Wiseman: No, I’m suggesting that people without experience in a particular task often make the best hires. Sometimes these people are Millennials, young and new to the workforce, but it can also be a mature professional who is pivoting from their current expertise and doing something new. We find that people are often at their very best when they are in rookie mode -- doing something important and hard for the first time.

Monster: What qualities demonstrate learning agility?

Wiseman: In my research I found that the “perpetual rookies” (those with years of experience and success who retained their rookie mindset) had a number of traits in common. They were:
1) Intellectually curious
2) Humble or, perhaps better said, teachable
3) Playful
4) Deliberate
If I were hiring someone for learning agility, I would look this duality: someone with a child-like approach to their work (curious, humble, playful) but who can also be their own adult supervision.

Monster: Is learning agility crucial when recruiting for manager positions?

Wiseman: Absolutely. The best leaders are learners. They know when it is time to shift out of the mode of leadership and into a mode of learnership. Not only do they need to be able to do this for themselves, but their agility between these roles sets the tone for the entire organization’s ability to unlearn and relearn dynamically.

Click here to read the entire interview with Liz Wiseman on

You can also learn more about Rookie Smarts by visiting

  • “As a company grows, nothing is more important than retaining a culture of innovation. Rookie Smarts shows how even a big company can take risks, innovate, and operate like a challenger.”
    Chairman and CEO,
  • “Wiseman masterfully shows why novices can outdo veterans, expertise blinds us to fresh ideas, and the brilliance of newbies remains untapped. With sage insights and fascinating examples, Rookie Smarts is a must-read.”
    Wharton professor and author of Give and Take
  • “Agility, resilience, grit, and a growth mindset—these are the attributes effective leaders need in a changing world. Rookie Smarts shows leaders at every age and at every stage of their careers how to master these skills.”
    University of Michigan professor and author of Leadership Sustainability
  • “If you want to be a learning machine, improving and growing every year, this is the book for you.”
    SVP of People Operations, Google, Inc.