Deliberate performance

Posted: - Modified: | decision

In “Deliberate performance: accelerating expertise in natural settings”, Peter J. Fadde and Gary A. Klein suggest the following conditions for improving performance even during regular work:

  • Repetition through practice and observation of other people: Watching other people and learning from them can help learners not only practise more, but also evaluate more different situations.
  • Timely feedback: not just performance reviews by supervisors, but also self-feedback and unambiguous measures
  • Task variety: that way, you don’t end up memorizing the same things. Helped by observing other people.
  • Progressive difficulty

and the following types of exercises:

  • Estimation: Time or resources needed. You can do this even for activities that are not directly estimated. The authors give the example of estimating how long agenda items will take and how much they’ll be resolved.
  • Experimentation: Types of experimentation (Schön):
    • Exploratory – getting the hang of things
    • Move-testing – trying something out in order to see the effect
    • Hypothesis testing – comparing hypotheses
  • Extrapolation: Learning from prior incidents in order to improve your mental models
  • Explanation

They give a great example of how to deliberately practise public speaking, which is well worth reading. It reminds me of how I get a lot of value out of the presentations I sit in, even if they cover familiar content; I look at the style, I reorganize the content, I doodle new visuals. There are so many opportunities to practise.

What else do I want to get better at, and how am I working on it?

Decision-making is one of those super-useful skills. I write many decisions down, and I occasionally post my decision analyses. From time to time, I revisit the decisions to see if my assumptions were correct. I experiment with different alternatives and with different methods for making decisions. I’m learning a little from my past decisions. I’d really love to learn from other people’s decisions, which is why I enjoy reading blogs like Lean Decisions.

Learning is another useful meta-skill. I can estimate how much time I need in order to learn something, and how much I can retain from different study methods. I can experiment with different ways to learn and review information. I can extrapolate based on past “tests”. I can explain how I’m doing.

Drawing is one of the skills that might be good to practise, too. I can estimate how much space and time I need to represent various topics clearly. I can experiment with different ways to draw and organize information. I can extrapolate based on other people’s drawings and my own. I can explain what makes something work and what makes something less understandable.

Development is fun and useful. I’m used to estimating how much time I need to code something, and I’m reasonably good at doing so. I could estimate how many lines it would take or what the logical structure would be like. I can experiment with different platforms and programs. I can increase my repetition by reading other people’s code and talking to other people about their projects, so that I can extrapolate from those experiences. I can explain what I’m doing, how I’m trying to debug something, or what caused a bug.

I’ve mentioned friendship, too. I can estimate the time and resources for different activities, the effect on me, and the perceived effects on others. I can experiment. I might be able to extrapolate from past experiences and from stories (maybe time to read more fiction). I can try to explain what works and what’s felt a bit weird.

With Emacs Org, it’s easy to verify my time estimates for tasks, and I can build in reminders to review my decisions too.

To round off this post, I want to share this quote from the article: “The purpose of deliberate performance experimentation, then, is to generate more surprises and more opportunities for reflection-in-action.” Sometimes when people find out how much I think about things, they wonder if that gets rid of the surprise. I find that thinking leads to more surprises, not fewer. I want to build more surprises and more reflection into my life. =)


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