Best Topic SpeakerPeople get sloppy. Sometimes people are always sloppy, soggy. In choosing people to work with, the issue of balancing aptitude with experience comes up. There are people who have done a job day-in and day-out for years – lots of experience – but they are no better than a bright new thing with just a few months experience. Why is that?

Seth Godin‘s most recent post is about how things become ‘soggy‘ over time. How do you get crisp and keep crisp? I’ve been thinking about that recently.

As a child I studied a musical instrument. Back then, getting good meant practicing, but practice came to be a chore. As I grew up and started to play in bands, practice came to be something that kept me out of scrapes and made me better at something that I enjoyed. So, why don’t we practice at work? Would you expect to become a brilliant musician by walking out on stage and just playing every evening? Never studying, never practising. Yet that is often what we do in the workplace.

When it comes to work, practice can be more important than experience. Experience comes from doing the same thing over and over again. In today’s business environment that is an opportunity that is increasingly rare. Things move and change. Practice is something different. It involves preparation, reflection, and seeking feedback. It is being purposeful about getting better. It is about concious learning. That is very different from blind repetition. You can do the same thing over and over and never get better at it. You just get soggy.

For that reason, I recently joined the Camberley Toastmasters club. It is a great opportunity to learn to speak more effectively and provides an opportunity for feedback and reflection, with a wonderful set of people. It is a great way for me to practice. Practice makes you crisp and it keeps you crisp. If you want to improve your speaking, I highly recommend finding your local Toastmasters International.

Why don’t we practice at work? Maybe we don’t practice because we don’t see ‘practice’ as ‘doing stuff’, it is just practice after all. Perhaps we just don’t get the chance, were are too busy ‘doing stuff. In reality, practice is ‘doing stuff’, and more than that, it enables us to ‘do stuff’ better than before.

Practice is about creating opportunities to learn, to have experiences where it is OK to fail. That is a radical concept in many businesses. Creating the space and opportunity to practice is a significant effort, but it is one that can provide significant rewards.

What would you like to practice?