Practicing to fail makes perfect

On-DemaPracticingnd Learning

In my book, On-Demand Learning, I saw an emerging trend of self-service in the world and a need for it to integrate into the way people learn.  The notion is, “I can bank 24 hours a day, I can scan my own groceries, I can pump and pay for my own gas, I can check in at the airport, and so many other things on my own, why can’t I learn when I want to?”   That “on-demand” trend is growing massively as learners get more savvy and the technologies such as mobile are more ubiquitous.

True learning doesn’t happen until you practice and fail in a safe environment, Roger Schank

One of the other key tenets of the book was based on Roger Schank’s book, Virtual Learning.  He states, in essence, you don’t truly learn until you  practice and fail.  This is so true if you think about it.  The old axiom says, “Practice makes perfect,” but to put a finer point on this, learning doesn’t really happen until the failure occurs with it.

Practicing and Failing Makes Perfect

Darin can ride his unicycle still…

That is why at the tender age of 52, I can still ride my unicycle like I did I learned how to ride when I was 10.  When I was first learning, I couldn’t even sit on the seat, without hugging a tree or a wall.  Eventually, with enough failing (or rather falling), I was able to pedal several feet successfully.  Most unicycles are not chain-driven, so you have to pedal non-stop until you get to the point where you can rock back and forth.  Finally, I was able to go long distances and even delivered papers on my route on it.

Watch a gamer

With the advent of web-based, mobile, gamification, and other technologies, learners are equipped perfectly to practice and fail in a safe environment.  This helps drive real learning that sticks.  If you watch people who play video games, at each level in a game, the players work through challenges, and movements, maps, actions, etc.  Soon, they learn from previous actions how to navigate each level and progress.

10,000 hours

Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field.  Actually, it takes 10,000 hours of practice, failing, honing,  more practice, more failing, more honing, ad infinitum.  Even experts need to continue to practice.

Practical tips

How can you use this information to improve your training offerings?

  • Offer chances for practice and failure
  • Allow learners to repeat the practice and failure cycle as needed until they learn the task or skill
  • Leverage the appropriate technology to enable self-directed learning
  • Show learners their learning path
  • Show learners their progress on the learning path (bars, badges, levels, points, etc.).

We live in an on-demand society.  We live in a technology surround.  We learning when we practice and fail in a safe environment.  If you mash up these three tenets, you can create an extremely sticky learning vehicle.

(c) 2016, Darin Hartley, The Janus Experience, LLC

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