Harnessing the power of the newbie

I’ve recently (in the last month) joined the Board of SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) as one of the new trustees and I’m very much in the mode of newbie at the moment, trying to learn as much as I can about UK social care.  It’s an unusual feeling for me to be so far out of my comfort zone.  Last week I attended a SCIE workshop in York with 50 or so people from across the health and social care sector.  Everyone was very friendly, welcoming and keen to answer the (many) questions I asked colleagues at my table but with all the jargon that’s used in the sector I did feel a little bit like a fish out of water.

In the afternoon we participated in an ideas gathering exercise.  We were asked to write ideas on cards, stick them on boards around the room and then read everyone else’s ideas – and if we liked one, put a blue sticker on it.  Genius way to collect ideas & feedback in an anonymous and non confrontational way.

As you are all aware and will no doubt have observed in your own place of work, the more senior you become in an organisation, the more difficult it is to get anyone in your team to disagree with you.  This is well documented and really quite frustrating when it happens.  CEOs go to great lengths to find ways around this.  It’s the reason why you should choose non executive directors who will be confident enough to challenge and disagree with you.

I wandered around and put two ideas up on the boards.  By the end of the session they were blue dot free.  No-one had voted for them.

Lloyd Davis at Tuttle Club

Lloyd Davis at Tuttle Club

I thought about this from time to time over the next day or so and then at Friday’s Tuttle club, discussed it quietly with Lloyd Davis and Tony Hall.  Stalwarts of the sensible both of them.  We concluded that my ideas had not been bad ideas per se – they were just completely out of kilter with the way that everyone else in that room thinks and expresses themselves.  They were too “different” for anyone to agree with them or probably even relate to them.  We debated for a while between ourselves and decided that it probably takes about 3 months in a new role for someone to become completely aligned with everyone else in the company or sector.

Once that happens, you’ve gained an assimilated team member but you’ve lost that fresh pair of eyes that you worked so hard to bring in and any new perspective they brought with them.

I’m interested in ways you think organisations generally can better harness the power of the newbie and it would be great if people out there who already do this well can share with the rest of us.  Please add your comments below.

Good to be back blogging again!


  1. Mary, I’m really glad that talking about it at Tuttle helped 🙂

    I’m sure you’ll add a lot of value to the SCIE board. I suspected too from your description of the workshop that you’d been exposed to Pinpoint – and the photo confirms it. It’s a great system for running workshops like this, I used it a lot at the Audit Commission and afterwards – I even got round to writing one up once!

    Give me a shout if you want to know more, I can see it being a useful tool for Learning Pool and many of your clients.

    Hopefully see you again one Friday if not before.


  2. Good post. I agree that the perspective brought by newcomers is an essential one. There’s also a parallel between the organisational newbie who’s yet to be “assimilated” into the culture and the external, user newbie, who’s yet to begin compensating for the poor design of products and services. Organisations need those people, inside and out, to be the voices of reason, and they need to work hard at not filtering them out.


  3. Hi Mary,

    I love your post. I am a newbie at my place of work (after 6 years at the old place) and the change of scene means I can’t seem to stop coming up with new ideas. While this is a key competency for my role (!), I recieve some pensive nods and hmmms when I share them. But I am determined to hang on to this exhilarating feeling of new-ness for as long as possible and I urge you to hold onto your different way of thinking too! I have no doubt that, given time, people will begin to align some with you and there will be some meeting in the middle. Good luck!


    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog Catherine – sounds as though your new job is fabulous so good luck with that & stay “new”.


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