Creating great learning experiences

The challenge with creating a great learning experience is getting the mix between theory and practice just right. Most conventional experiences just end up separating the two for simplicity. So, we end up overdoing theory in classrooms and overdoing practice in our day-to-day at work.

Skill building, thus, gets really hard for two reasons. First, the theory needs to be low on information and high on synthesis to make it applicable. And, second, it needs to be followed by attempts at applying it – with access to feedback.

So, if we’re seeking to help ourselves (and/or others) build skills, we need to design learning modules where we spend 20% of the time absorbing one simple, synthesized, idea followed by 80% of our time spent on attempting to practice it.

The test? If our attempts at learning aren’t changing how we actually operate, we aren’t learning.

To learn and not to do is not to learn.

Deliberate practice minus the 10,000 hour rule – The 200 words project

(continued from parts 1, 2).
The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea of 10,000 hours required to become an expert . There were, however, two issues with the 10,000 hour rule.

First, there is no magic number for the number of hours required to become an expert. It varies by field. 10,000 hours could be a good approximation but nothing more than that. Second and more important, experience does not result in expertise. Spending thousands of hours “practicing” golf by yourself will not make you an expert. Spending all those hours in “deliberate practice” under an expert coach is what you will need. It isn’t about the time you spend – it is about what you do with it.

This, then, leads us back to innate talent. Ericsson conducted years of research with expert violin players in Germany only to find that there was no visible link between innate talent and the performance of the best violinists. Instead, the two predictors were (you guessed it) – hours and intensity of practice.

If this is the case, perhaps there is a case to be made against the idea of innate talent?

People always said I had a natural swing. They thought I wasn’t a hard worker. But when I was young, I’d play and practice all day, then practice more at night by my car’s headlights. My hands bled. Nobody worked harder at golf than I did. – Sam Snead – once called “the best natural player ever” from Anders’ article on HBR

Source and thanks to: Peak by Anders Ericsson

(The 200 words project involves sharing a story from a book/blog/article I’ve read within 200 words)

Working your way through painful conditioning

I joined a group of very skillful footballers I didn’t know for a game last week. It has become a habit to do this wherever I am – find a place where footballers gather, join them, and ask if I can join. It’s a simple idea and is one that seems to work around the world, regardless of language.

Before you get in, getting in seems to be the challenge (and this applies to every place we try to get in – prestigious jobs, schools). It soon becomes evident that staying in, staying motivated and sustaining high performance is the hard part. I hadn’t played football for many months before I got in to play 4 days ago and, when playing with a high skill group, it shows. It wasn’t a bad game but I got out feeling aches and pains in multiple places. I had a few blisters too and immediately replaced my old studs with new ones to solve that problem.

The next day was worse. While there were no aches, pains or blisters, my complete lack of game time showed strongly as I was part of a poor team. We lost all 5 games I played in and I went home feeling demotivated. I tried reminding myself that I was doing this only for fun but it still hurt. The competitive person within hates being the person that sucks. The resistance even tried popping up to dissuade me from playing on Monday (i.e. today). That’s not going to happen.

If you’re wondering why I’d rather continue to embarrass myself, then you should know why… THIS is painful conditioning. This is the stuff I talk about on this blog nearly every day. THIS is the hard part. THIS is an example of the daily grind and the war we wage with the resistance.

There is no shortcut. I just have to work my way back in – play more to get my touch back, get fitter so I can compensate for my lack of touch with graft, and start again from the basics.

We just have to work our way through the painful conditioning to the places where the good stuff happens..