3 E’s For Development

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There are 3 ‘Es’ for development: Education, Experience and Exposure.  As I work with individuals and teams, I am often asked questions about how people truly develop.   Recently, I had a new manager ask me how to improve as they moved into their new role.  I shared with her that it requires intentionality in three key areas – your education, your experience and your exposure.

Studies show that if we are not learning, it may be time to find a new job.  The job has lost its luster and lost its challenge.  Check out the recent study from Harvard Business Review regarding this topic.


Education is what happens in a structured (online or live) or classroom setting.   I consider the education portion of our development foundational.  Yet, it is not a final indicator of success. In fact, how many college graduates do you know that are working in a completely different field than their undergraduate degree?  This happens all the time.

The internet has created a flux of methods to be a self-directed learner.  Coursera is a great site for individuals looking to take classes from free to $100 from at top higher education institutions.  You can take courses on big data, leadership and everything in between.


Experience is what happens when you start doing the work.  Whether you are a carpenter or a consultant, getting out there and doing the work compiles the largest percentage of our development.  Researcher Hermina Ibarra indicates that the best way to do career exploration is to simply move into the new role that you envision for yourself.

Meaningful work matters here not necessarily the high paycheck.  In fact studies show, that we will take the smaller paycheck if it helps us develop and gives us a cause.

Another key element with experience is the ability to to become excellent or gain mastery at a certain area of expertise.  The book entitled “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle provides some insight on our ability to gain mastery in various subjects.  Coyle states that for us to gain skill in a specific area it requires a four step process.

  1. Pick a Target
  2. Reach For It
  3. Evaluate The Gap Between The Target and The Reach
  4. Return To Step #1

Exposure is about our network of relationships that allow us to practice, learn, fail and repeat in a safe environment.  Just recently, I was with a friend that provides coaching.  It was great to be in his presence and share ideas, ask questions and discuss our process. This exposure allowed me to gain feedback on what was working and ask for help on some challenging situations.


I would encourage you to review the last year of your professional career and identify the % of time you spent in each of these three areas.  If you find, that you are exceptional at experience, but are missing the structured learning you may need to pursue a course, a certificate or conference to sharpen your sword.  If you find, that you are not well networked within your industry, it may be time to call that competitor or join a study group to gain knowledge in your industry.

Evaluate your percentages from 2015 and then set your 2016 goals.  My 2015 percentages included about 90% experience this past year.  My goal for 2016 is to take that down to 80% and begin some formal coursework in the education theme.