How to become a Master from a Novice – Apprentice, The Journey

I recently attended a brain storming session with Mr. Kishore Bhave*, on what it takes for a novice to become a master. During the discussion he shared an anecdote. During his MBA course, from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, he was called in by the Dean to elucidate on skills and ability. He explained that “Knowing how to drive a car is an ability. Training on driving lesson enables every trainee with it. Whereas, driving the car through twisted narrow lanes without making an error or an accident is a skill.”

Figuratively every novice embarks upon the journey to enable itself. This journey of learning begins when new skills are acquired. This acquisition graduates when the skills are coupled with a definite number of hours of practise. The educational system during a course of study prepares one for the theory with structures and systems. This is essential to make a beginning. The process needs to be tiled with real-time experiences. This entails internship which requires an individual to work in a defined role for a fixed duration. The upside to this process is, it gets a real-time experience and the downside is that the duration is limited, hence bordering the scope. More importantly this scope remains focussed hence the learning takes place creating an initial level of understanding. Suppose an MBA student gets inducted in to work as an HR Intern with a multinational firm. This short association will allow the student to work on a preliminary level delivering tasks to understand the practical implications of the theory. Hypothetically, let the student work on the induction process. It will allow the student to measure the level of inputs provided to the new joinees to inculcate the new organization’s culture and information to handhold the employee. The set of information can be taught in a course, but what not to share is ingrained during the actual process.

What is apprentice?

As shared in Instructional design “cognitive apprenticeship includes the three stages of skill acquisition described in the expertise literature: the cognitive stage, the associative stage, and the autonomous stage (Anderson, 1983; Fitts & Posner, 1967). In the cognitive stage, learners develop declarative understanding of the skill. In the associative stage, mistakes and misinterpretations learned in the cognitive stage are detected and eliminated while associations between the critical elements involved in the skill are strengthened. Finally, in the autonomous stage, the learner’s skill becomes honed and perfected until it is executed at an expert level (Anderson, 2000).”**

How does it work in the industry?

The initial input allows an individual to collect information and assimilate it as per one’s understanding. The information gathering later coupled with the apprentice builds in a framework which emerges as an oracle. For e.g.: Any one can read about recruitment. Its only when the person goes out on the field and starts recruiting they would know the gaps and differences in identifying talent. The individual learns to identify the cues what makes a right-fit . Screening resumes would take lesser time as the practice goes along. The script for the interview would get condensed to pick the keywords that can measure the candidate at the earliest. This experience would then broaden with hiring in greater volume, managing parallel activities such as vendor management, legal guidelines to be followed , budget allocation and audit. Gradually this would escalate with higher level responsibility such as managing a team to managing business units. Thus arriving at the highest level of Head of Recruitment role, where the individual will manage the hiring for the entire organization with a deep understanding of the talent base for the vertical. Here the individual would be capable of predicting the escalations that can come through managing ramp-up, hiring in distance location, global talent hiring etc. The individual would then become a master in their roles and  train professionals on how to deliver best at different levels.

Upside and downside – Flipping sides ?

The Upside to this journey is the ever-expanding scope of learning consequently development. The amount of information accumulated during the course is often life changing. When guided and nurtured with optimum environment, it can create a master who will lead and innovate. The downside is, the system of acquiring information often results in paradigm formation. Thus impeding the growth. The individual often loses a touch with other realities which increases vulnerability to sudden volatilities. The mental models remain fixed to a point of time or part of the society misses out on the evolution. Mr. Bhave believes “if you take a beaten track you would land up where everyone else is. Whereas, if you can keep an open mind and assume formlessness, you  will create your own trail.”

Where is the gap between knowing and understanding?

The education system provides a range of input best suited for planned implementation. When these concepts are internalized they bring in the confidence enhancing several dimensions of practical implementation and understanding.  The gap commences when, the information acquired doesn’t match to what needs to be implemented in appropriate magnitude. For e.g.: A course on communication can teach us language skills and how to avoid errors. It cannot teach us how to identify what has not been said, yet implied. This is the gap where we may know the words and its meaning. Yet completely fail to see the context. A sentence structured can evolve as an attitude when implemented with thought and understanding creating a path-breaking buzz such as “Yes, we can”!

Focusing on the current role and missing the big picture?

This is a classic paradigm. Mr. Bhave puts it practically saying, “The hierarchy of needs thereby priorities can create the death trap. Few professionals may prioritize career followed by the organization and boss. Whereas for others, it can be exactly, in the reverse order. The former allows an individual to master the skills related to the profession. Whereas the latter would enable the individual to be skilled in the narrow view of the role weaving a way up to to the career ladder primarily based on manipulations of individuals around them”. He put it this way- the presence of an attribute is the absence of the other. Hence becoming the master from a novice would require an individual to understand the relativity of what is present. For e.g. A manager may have a team of five members delivering on the operational KRA. The best of them would be the one that meets the parameters of the scorecard. This doesn’t make the team members best in the talent market but only to that team. Similarly from an individual point of view, one may have a great job only when they realise the areas for delivery which was not available in other jobs. Consequently connecting the two including what is present and what remains absent would provide the complete discernment.


Finally, Mr. Bhave drew the analogy between skills and ability with the MBA education as explained by his Dean. According to his Dean, MBA is like a driving license. It empowers you with the basic ability to navigate through the management world. The skillfulness of implementing those concepts and theories will make one a leader in the field. Thus mapping the journey of a novice to a master!

*Mr. Kishore Bhave: He is a Senior member to CiteHR , better known as Samvedan in the community. His contributions to the community have been helping many. He was the keynote speaker of the CiteHR Meet Pune’09. He is a senior management professional who has worked across different verticals in several leadership positions. He had been heading Samvedan, a management consultancy firm and has been working as a sounding board to many CEOs. His passion lies in writing and reading. He has been writing for noted Management Periodicals.

**This is a quote referred from Cognitive Apprenticeship, Instructional Design , Instructional Design.

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