Saturday, January 23, 2010

Practice, Preparation, and Paralleling Reality


People practice in order to prepare. We prepare for things that we feel are important or things that have little room for error. So what happens when that practice is preparing you for something completely different than you intended? Likely decreased performance.

Last week I was in a military exercise. All the bases do similar exercises to prepare for deployments, practice first aid, and gas mask utilization. The problem is that we practice deploying using Cold War era methodologies. I cannot count the number of people I hear every exercise talk about how this is not how we really deploy. It is tough for someone like myself who is thirsting for knowledge and preparation surrounding how we really ship out. So why do we practice something we don't do and likely will never do again? Because the military values preparation. I don't want to say it is a box checking mentality but it is important in that culture to consistently test and evaluate ourselves. This is actually a good thing, and when it comes to training the military has a long tradition of implementing large scale training initiatives that have proven their worth through a string of successes in actual war time scenarios. With that being said I think the question is not whether we should practice, but are we actually practicing the right things? What is the end state? And is our preparation positively affecting that end state?

Athletes understand this concept. Athletes are constantly seeking training that most parallels their actual sport. Whether it be drills in practice or weights in the gym, athletes want to mirror the game as to best prepare for success. Don't think that the military is alone in their struggles to mirror future conflicts. In fact, given the nature of their business the military probably does better than most organizations.

I started to transfuse this concept into other areas of my life. What am I doing that is just wasted effort? Am I performing activities in the name of preparation that in actuality may have unexpected outcomes? I think I am going to make more of an effort to ask what the desired end state is for activities that consume my time.

A good example is blogging. Many people get into blogging with illusions of grandeur and dollar signs in their eyes. Doubtful at best. I personally blog to maintain a consistent writing presence in my life, to better my communication skills, to challenge and solidify my beliefs, and most importantly to grow. With that end state in mind the activities like finding content, brainstorming, and writing are worth the commitment invested. However, if my end state was to make money I would likely be performing the wrong activities. Yes content is important as that is what people ultimately come back for, but I would probably be better served spending more time growing my readership.

I am about to start my Kaplan GMAT preparation course. I chose to take the course because my end state is a high GMAT score. Kaplan not only forces me to go to class and study, which is much needed, but they also have a system that is highly aligned with the actual GMAT test. Everything from the practice problems used in previous GMAT years, to the way they segregate the question types, to the scoring methods, to the adaptive practice tests, and a practice at an actual testing facility mirrors the experience I will likely have when I take the actual GMAT. They get it. They know what the customer's desired end state is and they know that the best way to positively prepare for the future is to do the best you can to replicate it.

Are there any areas in your life where practice becomes something entirely different than what you were preparing for?

1 comment:

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