Author Topic: The critical nature of practice  (Read 1034 times)


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The critical nature of practice
« on: April 19, 2017, 11:55:42 PM »
The critical nature of practice

Getting better at something takes practice, period. Sure, you can convey information quickly, but the skills that require instruction, the ones that really drive the innovation and strategy in your organization, they require practice. Practice is how we build those neural pathways and turn behaviors into habits. Practice is also how we hone and improve our skills, developing mastery. So practice is an important part of your learning strategy because we all gain so much form the doing of something. In addition, people are busy.

Work is so fast paced these days and even the most well meaning learners will struggle to find the time to practice. As a result, it's imperative that we build practice time into our learning events. It's really the only way we can guarantee that it happens. It's the only way to help build those desired behaviors and habits so they can be repeated out on the job and it's really the only way to ensure that things are done correctly because we can coach and instruct to improvement. There are many ways we can build practice into our learning strategy.

These range from the low-tech and inexpensive to the elaborate and costly, but they'll all deliver great value or return on investment. Let's explore some options. Have people practice skills within your learning events. Whether it's using software, giving performance feedback, or managing a project, just trying the behavior a few times is very effective and it doesn't take much time either. I found that five to 10 minutes is plenty of time. And if it's a complex skill like coaching employees, I break the skill into smaller steps and we practice each step and then string them together.

You can also pair people up to practice outside of your learning event. This not only creates accountability, it helps to transfer the learning into the real work environment. I have people practice in the room and then assign those same partners or groups a couple more sessions that they need to report on. This also works with people who are geographically dispersed and an added bonus is that you help them build new relationships with colleagues. Modeling ideal behavior is powerful and can give your talent the goal to aim for.

Many of us really benefit from first seeing a behavior done well by an expert. One of my favorite tools is by a company called Practice. (chuckles) Go figure. It allows you to use the power of interactive video to demonstrate ideal behaviors as well as create an environment for learners to receive authentic assessment and coaching. You can also create realistic practice environments for your talent. We all have access to low-tech role plays, which are quite effective, but now, technology can create realistic virtual scenarios that replicate the realities of the job in a safe situation, also known as immersive training simulators.

For example, one large hotel chain wanted to help their front desk staff learn to deal with various scenarios. They created virtual lobbies and had various customers walk up to the front counter, giving the employees a powerful first-hand experience with handling various requests and attitudes. You can also create scenarios that are completely responsive in real time. Other people can animate the computer avatars, making the interaction spontaneous and authentic. These sessions can be recorded and reviewed, allowing employees and coaches to gain important insights.

Check out companies like Mursion, Cubic, STRIVR, and Academy925 for examples. Since the graphics are so realistic, the brain and the body get a very real experience of practice that actually activates the same neural pathways. Another amazing option is using adaptive learning. Companies like amplifire and Area9 can create learning solutions that are unique to each and every person, meeting their skill level at the starting point, and then progressing on pace with that individual.

They include features to practice in safe, but realistic scenarios. For example, it's vital that healthcare workers stay up on the latest information and skills. They can practice in realistic hospital room scenarios, analyzing data from machines and charts in the room, observing or interacting with a patient, and then offering the correct diagnosis. These are just a few examples of innovative learning solutions that support practice and more are being developed all the time.

Part of your job is to continually stay on top of new developments and technologies in the learning space so that you can harness these innovations for your organization. I find that attending at least one to two learning conferences per year is very helpful. You might also want to join a national or international association such as the Association for Talent Development, or ATD, or SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Managers. You'll then receive industry publications and invitations to relevant webinars, conferences, and other great events.