Learn Best...When You Learn Least


This is an important learning principle to keep in mind when facing a world of unlimited information.

The book "Work Rules," relates a story by Damon Dunn of an occurrence when he was a senior at Stanford University. One rainy night his friend, Tiger Woods, had missed a university function. Damon discovers him at midnight at the driving range hitting golf balls. Tiger explains it rarely rains in California and this is a chance to practice in the rain. He was going to hit the same shot over and over for three hours in the rain until he mastered it.

Tiger is not alone. All high achievers use deliberate practice to progress. It is not random practice on broad subjects. Deliberate practice requires specific practice, feedback and experimentation on one least aspect. For example, pilots practice the same landing in all kinds of conditions. Doctors practice the same operating procedure in a variety of patient conditions. It is what makes them good and then great professionals.

Sad to say most business people never do deliberate practice. They don't isolate specific pieces of their process and simulate working conditions, get feedback from others and get a chance to experiment. Do you work in Salesforce - when do you practice? Are you a software developer, when do you take time to experiment?

When I did software training on a complex product, we built a simulator in the tool. It permitted us to practice on specific small areas, experiment and make mistakes. My teams were told practice specific areas until their fingers bled. By doing so they were able to master a complex tool with which others struggled. They were no smarter, they just used deliberate practice. They learned best by learning least.

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