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Practice vs. “Just Do”

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Currently reading the fabulous and thought-provoking book by Matthew Syed – “Bounce – The myth of talent and the power of practice”, (ISBN 978-00-735054-4, Published by FSC 201/11)

The basic premise is that “talent”, (especially in sports), is mainly related not to something innate, but to the number of hours PRACTICE that someone puts in.  This is illustrated using many examples, which (I have to say), provide a very compelling argument.

So…to the workplace. What does that mean (if anything) for organisational development?

Well for starters, it probably means that “Talent Management” is a misnomer!

Apart from that, what it means  is that to get MEANINGFUL performance increases in staff, they just need to practice and practice at a skill. So – HOW could we, for example, bring those concepts to a sales force?

If the difference between HIGH and LOW performers is practice, (and motivation, which I will not cover here…), then it seems to suggest our courses MUST include REAL examples, and lots of them. In fact, the ratio of “new information” to “practice” is probably skewed HEAVILY in favour of the latter.  I could go so far as to say that, perhaps…the “new information” portion of sales skills courses COULD be covered by eLearning that takes place BEFORE the course?

How many “Case Studies” and “Scenarios” are developed to actually be REALISTIC? I have been ridiculed on a few occasions when I suggested that, for example, a course on closing a sale should run from 0700 in the morning until 0200hrs the next day, with a few minor comfort and meal breaks. THAT is the way that some sales organisations operate at Quarter-end.  If we do not prepare people for this, (and I have only done this sort of thing once in my career), then are we really preparing staff for the real world at all?

To continue the theme of PRACTICE, are we going to allow our accountants to fail at a new technique a over a few iterations, or our R&D people to fail a few times, (whilst practicing…), before they get it “right”? Which organisations actually allow this sort of behaviour to happen?

If this theory is correct, and I have a reasonable amount of faith that the concept has merit, how can we ; seriously get a culture of “practice” into our organisations, rather than a culture of “just do”?

“Just-do” is not necessarily any use – it neither assists with learning, or motivation. Practicing once or twice in the safety of a classroom may be just as useless , as it will inevitably lack many of the elements of “the real world”, (time pressure, surprises, the whims of the customer etc.).

I’m not sure that I know all or any of the answers to any of this, however, one thing I do know is that “Death by PowerPoint” is completely, and utterly pointless, and I will at least be doing my best to play “Devil’s Advocate” when being asked to produce client learning interventions, if there is a slight amount of doubt in my mind as to the eventual efficacy.

Until next time…

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