To really excel and beat the competition, it requires more than a spark of inspiration and talent. It requires focused effort. The sporting world has shown that, and we’ve all been reminded of it hearing the personal stories of the medalists in the recent Olympic games.
Better practice = better performance
Coaching and training techniques have been refined and improved, which is part of the reason we’ve seen World and Olympic records shattered. And while advanced and novel training techniques are not limited to sports, they do have one common theme: they all make the activity more difficult than it is really is. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Football: one of the reasons that Brazilian footballers are so good, is not just natural talent or the poor economic conditions, but they all play futsal. It is played with a smaller, heavier ball and a smaller pitch. The maths tells the story. Futsal players touch the ball far more often than soccer players – six times more often per minute. The smaller, heavier ball demands and rewards more precise ball control. “No time plus no space equals better skills.”
Table tennis: multi-ball coaching techniques brought in by the Chinese. Simply put, multi-ball is the training technique that has coach use a number of balls to set up a training drill for the practicing player. Most players think of multi-ball almost as a torture technique, where the trainee is reduced to a small puddle of sweat as the feeder keeps him constantly moving all over the table chasing the ball and gasping for breath. And while using multi-ball to build fitness is one aspect of the technique, there are several other benefits: technique, footwork, decision making and psychological strength.
Better business practice
In business we do not “practice.” Every day we go to work we are “in the game,” rarely with a coach, a game plan or any time to reflect on our performance.
But business is not a zero-sum game. In sports, to win, your opponent needs to lose. In business, that is not the case. If an individual can raise their game, it can be replicated by other team members. The collective performance gains can be huge. So why are proven techniques from sports not used in business?
As one business expert put it, “Very few businesses have put the principles of ‘purposeful practice’ into the workplace. Sure, the hours may be long in some jobs, but the tasks are often repetitive and boring and fail to push employees to their creative limits beyond. There is little coaching and objective feedback is virtually non-existent, often compromising little more than a half-hearted annual review.” [Read more...]