“We have a lot going on between the ears. . . A lot of what mental training addresses is how do we start being selective about what you pay attention to.” Ericka Carson, Sports Psychologist
Create the "A-Ha" to Improve Performance
Well, do you see the cow? Do you? Look again. Do you see the patterns that you could interpret as a "cow?" Not yet? (See a picture below for more help.)
I've used this exercise to make the point that we only see patterns when we see them, not before. We will only see them when WE see them. No amount of explanation or encouragement will result in you seeing the pattern until you see it.
Also, I have found that the more we talk, the more we say "it's right there" or "can't you see it?" we can make things worse. A lot worse.
And then, there it is. The pattern. The "Cow."
Our ability to see patterns has everything to do with leadership and business acumen. In my work, we help experienced leaders free their minds from the 'noise' so they can see the important patterns in their business information, thereby allowing them to make strategically sound and operationally effective decisions.
That's "business acumen."
I have also learned that too much too soon is not helpful. There's a principle in learning called "cognitive load." In short, it means that when learning something new, there's a limit to how much your brain can absorb at one time. That load can be maximized quite easily when something is new. It feels like you're "drinking from a fire hose" or you're experiencing 'death by PowerPoint."
Decision researchers call this phenomenon Information Overdose.
Information overdose (also known as infobesity, infoxication, information anxiety, and information overload) is the difficulty in understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when one has too much information about that issue. Wikipedia
When we overdose on information, when something is new or risky or complex, our ability to see patterns is significantly curtailed. We can't see the forest for the trees. We lose the bigger picture.
That's where Business Acumen comes in. With real business acumen, the 'game of business' is perceived to slow down, because your expertise is available to anticipate, to connect, to react, and to think. Read more about this phenomenon in professional athletes here.
I use business simulation, spaced repetition, direct instruction, case studies, feedback, and other techniques to build business acumen. To be more precise, I engage our learners in these learning experiences so that THEY can achieve fluency and automated thinking, allowing them to see patterns.
With this fluency, leaders free their cognitive abilities to see the patterns and make decisions. In short, they can perform their jobs better.
To get there, you need to simply practice a bunch, be curious, take chances, and do it rather than simply talk about it. These techniques are what we use to improve leadership decision making and performance.
See the cow now? A-ha!
"The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the unanimous views of all parts of my mind."
- Malcolm McMahon
Dan Topf, CPT is Sr. Vice President at MDI, Inc.
Business Learning by Dan: Primers for Trainers
PDF versions of short articles on how to integrate business acumen into all training and development:
The Income Statement
Price and Volume
The Circulation of Capital
The Cost of Capital
Financial Services -- Life Insurance/Annuities