Why It's True That Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

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Well Executed Practice 

There’s no argument that well executed practice within the sports arena is a key competitive advantage.  Just ask professional athletes and they’ll tell you that going over and over the skills, both before and after each game, make the difference between winning and losing. 

Top athletes go even further to achieve their performance goals by using visualization techniques to mentally rehearse muscle movements in their heads.

It’s a given that you need to practice when learning any set of physical (kinesthetic) skills such as tennis and golf.  Not just any old practice will do. 

What works is practice of the core, fundamental skills (back to basics stuff) that when reinforced over time leads to high quality, sustained performance.

If you’re a contestant on a television show such as ‘Dancing With the Stars’, your top ballroom dance professional will teach you the physical, mental and social tools necessary for success, and will stop at nothing to transform you from ordinary to extraordinary.

After a lot of practice and more practice you’re ready to confidently glide across the dance floor. Again, you discover that you can only learn a physical skill with practice. 

Once is NOT Enough

Now think of the last time you attended a workshop, seminar, or completed an online program to learn new job knowledge and skills?  How many times did you actually practice?  Was once enough? 

I will go out on a limb and say that for MOST learning events there’s only time for content presentations, stories. and explanations with little or no opportunity to really discuss, work with, try out, use, and apply the learning. 

Did you know that it takes twenty-one times of repetition to learn something…seven times to a performance level and the other times to reinforce it so your brain does it automatically.  

It’s not only not helpful but also dangerous when those 'teaching' a specific topic and/or skills are doing it at the 'awareness only' level and not 'retention level'.  What you think you know or could do vanishes very quickly without practice.  It’s called learning decay.

Answering Online Quizzes is NOT Practice

So, you’d assume that with technology-based training you’d have more opportunities to practice.  The opposite is true.  Too many e-learning programs provide very little if any practice.  The focus is more on quizzing the learners as quickly as possible after they have read the content (within 5 to 10 minutes) to prove that they have learned.  

What’s being tested is not whether the learners have learned but how effectively they have retained the information in their short-term memories.  It’s checking to see if they read the content, not that they learned it.  It’s similar to cramming for a test only to forget most of what was ‘learned’ the next day, week, or month.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Do you or your organization need to place more emphasis on practice?

From an organizational perspective it’s often the case of no time and no money to invest in practice.  It’s often left up to you, the learner, to take what you’ve learned and apply it back on-the-job. Often there’s no time to do that either because of other priorities and pressures that push practice to the back burner.

So, the next time you attend or go online to complete an organization-sponsored learning initiative, try using the same practice skills you rely on when learning a new sport or hobby.  Set up a schedule to practice recalling the new knowledge and using the new skills, spaced out over time.

Vince Lombardi, the head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers once said, "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect". 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Valerie Dixon, M.Ed., CTDP, President of Learnware Design Inc., (www.learnware.com) is a leading learning efficiency and effectiveness strategist and thought leader in the field of workplace learning and performance.  Valerie has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of performance needs analysis, learning organization strategy development and learning design.  She is the creator and designer of programs and products that accelerate job competence™.

 

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We are learning experts who work with organizational leaders and employees to accelerate job competence™ for increased performance, productivity, and profits.

 

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