Doing is Learning

Part of working with organisations to streamline their decision processes and working with staff to empower their decision-making is conducting some exercises to test these processes. Sometimes this is in the form of crisis management exercises, emergency management exercises or simply communication exercises involving team building and decision management.

Whatever the mechanism, there's one vital insight I have gained from these exercises.

I don’t worry about how great or badly your exercise goes. Yes my shoulders slump if things we’ve spoken about in the classroom go badly. Yes I too am disappointed if it is a shemozzle. But this chance to practice, is the time to uncover shortcomings and build confidence. – There’s no such thing as a failed exercise, only failure to learn from it.

There is one sure fire way to ensure success at pretty much everything you do and that is to study less and practice more.

If you attended a lecture a week for 52 weeks and also read through the complete volume of instructions on how to ride a bicycle and you had never ever riden one previously in your life, do you think after all this instruction and learning you could ride a bicycle? Most likely not.

The real learning takes place by testing yourself and putting your learning into practice.

Keep the “Rule of Two-Thirds” in mind. Spend only one third of your time studying and the other two-thirds doing the activity. Testing yourself.

 In his book The Talent Code author Dan Coyle states "Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it. There’s a rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge."

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.
— Bruce Lee

Action precedes clarity

What makes people hesitant to attempt something new? Why are you confident that you can do something you do regularly? What Is Confidence?

Confidence is often described in a range of different ways and it’s sometimes combined and even overlaps with self-esteem and optimism.

Yet confidence has its own distinct quality. Wikipedia puts it this way; 'Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Self confidence is having confidence in one's self.'

So to put it simplistically, it's the sense that you possess the skill and competence to successfully do a certain task.  You know that specific actions will lead to specific outcomes.

The decision cycle that I use regularly is that action precedes clarity; clarity brings ceratinty; certainty breeds confidence and confidence emboldens you to take action.

What needs to be highlighted however is that confidence is not all encompassing. Being confident doesn't mean you are good at something and certainly not good at everything.

Confidence is “task specific.” Just because you’re confident in your ability to excel in one area, doesn’t mean you’re confident in all areas. Realising and accepting this helps break through indecision.

Similarly, I describe the above concept as a 'cycle'. Because we have different levels of confidence for different decisions or tasks we will consistently find ourselves starting at a different point on the cycle each time. Some things we already have confidence with and so take action. Action results in an outcome (expected or otherwise) and so our clarity develops leading to more certainty regarding our decision or performance. Other times we may seek more clarity before being certain about our choice, decision or action. And so on.

Summing up; we can learn and study till the cows come home but until we try, do, act or practice no real learning has taken place.

Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn puts it this way: 'testing is actually a better form of studying than studying.'