One of the foundational concepts of the School of Thinking, since 1979, has been a focus on the difference between KNOWLEDGE and SKILL. The gap between Knowing and Doing. The choice between Talk and Action. The performance between Mediocrity and Virtuosity. And we have prescribed the way to bridge the gap between KNOWING and DOING as … PRR.
In SOT training PRR stands for Practise, Repetition and Rehearsal.
PRR is the strategy behind all SOT training and the currency is hours. The metric is hours. The investment is hours of PRR. This focus on PRR is how SOT has achieved such a remarkable reputation for x10 results over the years.
It is PRR which differentiates SOT from other online training programs like Coursera and Udacity.
Here is an exerpt written in 1982 by SOT co-founder, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, in the Learn-To-Think Coursebook (Capra New, Santa Barbara 1982):
Just as a pilot’s operating ability can be assessed by the hours he has logged in his Pilot’s Log Book, the same applies to thinking skill.
In a recent survey conducted by SOT to find the training hours needed to acquire a basic skill and confidence in that skill in the following areas, the experts at the Julliard School in New York estimated the following:
Piano ………. 450 training hours
Singing ………. 900 training hours
Alto Sax ………. 600 training hours
Cello ………. 900 training hours
Flute ………. 900 training hours
Viola ………. 1200 training hours
Violin ………. 1200 training hours
Trumpet ………. 300 training hours
Trombone ………. 600 training hours’
Guitar ………. 150 training hours
Harmonica ………. 50 training hours
Read Music ………. 150 training hours
Kung Fu ………. 600 training hours
It was pointed out that this level of training would not give a virtuoso ability, but would give a good operating or performing ability or SKILL.
Not surprisingly, the same applies to acquiring an operating skill or performing ability in the skill of thinking. Until you have logged a minimum of 50 training hours in thinking as a deliberate skill, do not criticize yourself if you find you are still on the downside of KNOWING versus DOING.
PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL PRACTICE REPETITION REHEARSAL
In my business I often get asked in media interviews and seminars questions like, “What is the ultimate strategy for success?”
Everyone, understandably, wants a quick fix, a secret passage, a short-cut.
If there really is a short-cut. If there really is a secret passage. If there really is a genuine answer to such a question, I think it is what I have called – PRR which stands for Practice-Repetition-Rehearsal.
Practice-Repetition-Rehearsal A pattern is something that is repeated more often than random chance. To develop new patterns of thinking your brain needs repetition to build the new pattern. This is such an important strategy for your personal success that we will devote this whole lesson to it.
I had the pleasure of advising Jack Welch when he was Chairman of General Electric and used to say, “You’ve got to be out in front of crowds, repeating yourself over and over again, never changing your message no matter how much it bores you”.
Many people are not aware of the fact that the original concept of “self-help” and “individual personal development” was invented by the early orders of knighthood.
The Stirrup It was the invention of the stirrup in the ninth century that led to the idea of the knight. Now a horseman was much surer in the saddle and so the cavalry charge against a wall of infantry became possible. This reduced infantry to the role of support troops and attention became focused on the horseman or cavalier or knicht (German) and his special individual training and personal development.
When one is a serious student of the history and strategies of training and personal development, one must study and learn the concepts and strategies of the orders of chivalry.
Training and Service The noble principles of: training + service = virtuosity. This separated the orders of knighthood from their military predecessors. The notions of excellence and quality – of developing one’s ideals and physical prowess through tournaments and practice and of offering one’s service to others – became the original concepts of chivalry and knighthood.
This gave chivalry its peculiar quality which has endured for 900 years.
The New Age of Chivalry All the original crusading orders of knights have been extinct for 200 years since Napoleon drove the last of them out of Malta in 1798. But today we see a big return to the ideals of training and service. Perhaps we are now in the New Age of Chivalry. An age of chivalry when the pen is mightier than the sword.
People around the world are attending seminars, reading books, buying tapes, attending training courses, gyms and so on at a rate that would make the ancient knights green with envy. You, yourself, doing this training, are one of them.
All of this goes to show that there is a big trend in Australia, the United States and around the world for people to help themselves and to help each other, as never before in history. And the bottom line is practice, practice and more practice.
So, remember this: Seminars don’t work! Books don’t work on any subject unless you practise! On the other hand, practice always works. Repetition always works. Rehearsals always work.
The Ultimate Strategy is PRR!
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that the ultimate strategy for success in any area is Practice-Repetition-Rehearsal or PRR (prounounced: “pee double-are”).
The war movie that had the biggest impact on my life was a little known movie called National Service Officer, a military infomercial about the Scheyville Experience at a place called the Officer Training Unit (OTU). It was there that I learned about PRR.
Jungle Warfare The military is big on PRR because their bottom line is so severe. During the Vietnam era, Australia’s Jungle Training Centre at Canungra in Queensland was considered one of the best in the world. In Jungle Warfare, one of the things soldiers must learn is what to do in the event of an ambush.
Now, of course, an ambush really is the worst situation you could be in. It’s totally unexpected and the natural patterns of behaviour are not useful.
Imagine that you are going along a jungle path nearly back at base camp, tired, certain you are safe. Suddenly you run into an AMBUSH!! Suppose the ambush is on your left. They’re lucky; they have the element of surprise. You try not to get into that kind of situation, but what if you do?
Well, first, what is the natural thing to do? Naturally you will tend to run the opposite way, but all that does is to keep you clearly in the line of fire. Actually, the best thing to do is to turn left to face them and walk straight into the ambush, because on the other side of the ambush, lies safety (and you even get a chance to have a go at the other guys).
So that’s what military trainers teach: when a group runs into an ambush coming from the left, the lead man is supposed to yell “AMBUSH LEFT!!” and then everyone is supposed to turn left and attack. But, in a highly emotional situation like an ambush, it’s difficult to do that just because someone yells out “AMBUSH LEFT!!”
You know you’re supposed to turn left and walk straight into it. You could probably pass a written exam in that right now! You could probably even teach it to somebody else! But to actually DO it yourself is another matter. There’s a huge difference between knowing and doing.
Royal Australian Air Force In the early 70s, in the RAAF, I was taught to eject from a plane. Again, you don’t want to have to eject from an airplane, but when it’s necessary there is no other choice. There are much more modern systems now, but the way I was taught on the Maachi Jet was this: you just reach up and pull down two little yellow and black striped handles.
That’s all you have to do! Everything else happens automatically. What that does is to detonate a bomb under your seat which explodes and pushes you through the canopy of the plane. Not very pleasant.
Of course it’s the lesser of two evils. If something goes wrong and you get the command “EJECT! EJECT! EJECT!”, at that moment you simply reach up and do it. You can’t wait to think, “This couldn’t be happening to me.” You have to eject immediately! You have to go first before the front seat pilot does because if he goes first, the explosion of his seat will kill you.
No, you don’t have any time to think it over. You must know that when you get that command you ARE going to reach up and do what’s called for. Again, it’s simple to know but difficult to DO.
Knowing Versus Doing It’s another case where there’s all the difference in the world between knowing and doing. Doing takes skill, and skill comes with training. With practise, practise, practise over and over again you can do it. Then, when something or someone triggers the pattern with the command, “EJECT!”, it will trigger your being able to actually DO it.
In a patterning system, like your biological necktop, PRR (prounounced: “pee double-are”) is the ultimate strategy for building the deep executive patterns that you choose to override the weaker ones.
“The most successful people in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion. It is the one who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider – progressively able to grasp any theme or situation – persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thoughts upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.” – Alexander Graham Bell.
PRR is like your own personal trainer. When you use the PRR necktop software you always improve. What new insights are you developing on the subject of PRR? Do you understand the strategic relationship between PRR and skill development? Do you understand that when it comes to aquiring virtuosity in any human skill the #1 strategy is PRR?
On Friday I was invited to talk to the Emerging Scientist Forum 2017. Sponsored by Agilent Technologies it was a day for young scientists to meet, talk and discuss science and their careers in science. My talk was Should Scientists Think?
It was also a delight for me to see 24 x 3-minute presentations by these young scientists. I saw 24 glimpses into the thinking and ideas of a diversity of young scientists which has left me hopeful and inspired. I left feeling science is in very good hands for the future.
Another highlight was the excellent talk by Professor Malcolm McConville on the zig-zaggy, outside-the-box, career path of a scientist. He is Associate Director of Melbourne’s famous Bio21 Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology. Professor MacConville gave an intimate and entertaining talk about the traits needed for a life in science.
Over the meandering course of their career scientists may become researchers and lab heads but, as they navigate their way, they may also become … teachers, mentors, managers, writers, editors, peer reviewers, statisticians, fundraisers, accountants, travel agents, recruiters, conference organisers, small business owners, science communicators, graphic designers, web designers, ethics compliance monitors, project managers, data storage and sharing experts, political activists, science advocates, public speakers, science outreach specialists, PR gurus, mental health monitors, mediators, cheerleaders, life coaches, career counselors, therapists, immigration consultants, role models, and social directors … for none of which they are trained
What we are up against, as lateral thinkers, is the very wicked problem of ESCAPE. Edward de Bono used to often say, “The most difficult feat of human thinking is to escape from our own point-of-view”.
This is because the main Darwinian purpose of the human brain is to quickly lock-in a point-of-view, as situations arise, so we can react and survive.
If we add our strong judgmental, cultural thinking habit of RIGHT/WRONG then it becomes not just difficult to escape from our set point-of-view but almost impossible, especially if we believe we are RIGHT!
Furthermore, if we are highly intelligent and articulate then we may be so able to defend the rightness of our point-of-view that we see little need to abandon it for something better. So we get trapped into argument and conflict. This can be very dangerous and costly.
The human brain is not designed to innovate so it has to be trained.
These days there are many people who are interested in lateral thinking. They have read books on the subject and may even understand this unique cognitive phenomenon. However, I have found in my work over the years that understanding is good, but not nearly good enough. People tell me they know they should think laterally but they just can’t do it very well.
Lateral thinking is not natural. It is an acquired skill. Like flying a plane. It even goes against our natural way of thinking and it is very often quite hard to escape from the box of our own personal point-of-view. Even if we have read and learned, in theory, how to do it.
Over the years I have written about this big gap between KNOWING and DOING. We know people who can sing at the top of their voice but we just can’t do it ourselves. In a group, we might sing a little more quietly so as not to be heard. We know people who can bake a luscious ‘death by chocolate’ cake but we can’t quite do it ourselves. We might cheat and buy a cake-mix box and throw a rather poor substitute together.
This gap between KNOWING and DOING, between knowledge and performance, is everything in business.
Business is all about creating value. On any given day in any given business there are value fountains and value drains. That day the value fountains created value for the shareholders. The value drains depleted shareholder value on that day. Our economy has serious productivity issues today because there are too many value drains and not enough value fountains. I tell my CEO clients that their job, as CEO, is to multiply the number of value fountains on the payroll … by ten!
Knowing all this is one thing. Creating actual measurable value is another. I have written about this many times and have called this gap, The Impossible Barrier, because so few people are ever able to cross over from one side to the other … from KNOWING to DOING. Watching the Australian Open is great but we are only spectators. Only the few are actually slamming an ace on the line!
I suppose my own original idea is software for the brain. If you google the idea you currently get around 140 million entries. My book by the same name was first published in 1989 and it has now become common currency around the world. In SOT we also talk about apps for intelligence and no-one has a problem with the idea. However, I first was taught the technique in the Australian army in the late 60s although they didn’t call it brain software they called it aide memoire.
The method was used to train soldiers new skills like how to react in the event of an ambush or how to teach pilots to eject from a plane. These are both highly counter-intuitive skills that the brain would not normally allow you to do. So it requires PRR – Practice, Repetition and Rehearsal. At that time I was surprised to see how different military training was to what I had experienced at school.
This is partly because the Western education strategy is so focused on knowing. In academic education, where the bottom-line is to pass an exam, lessons are often designed using SLOs (Student Learning Objectives). The evaluating question is asked: What will the student know?
In military education, where the bottom-line is life or death, lessons are often designed using SPOs (Student Performance Objectives). The question is asked: What will the student do?
There is a BIG difference in outcomes between these two methods of instruction. It is all about developing a thorough understanding and conviction of the difference between merely having knowledge on a matter and owning a skill of performance in it. The virtue of virtuosity. Understanding the strategy of practice x10 and repetition x10.
That’s why I’m very pleased to be able to bring you this progress report on the first class of the Master of Lateral Thinking – the MLatTh(SOT) program we started this year. It’s very exciting to see the students now getting onto a higher trajectory that will get them across the Impossible Barrier.
Although it’s only 8 weeks into the training we can already see some real strength in the development of lateral, x10 thinking skills. One student is working in a high-technology business expanding its operations into the USA and says:
The current view that I want to escape is that 10% better is a huge increase. With this current mindset when I reach that 10% I feel like I’ve conquered Everest and therefore I stop searching for other alternatives. I need to leave this thinking behind and start dreaming a little bigger.
Another MLatTh(SOT) student said this week:
I work in a medical imaging technology company. My team and I work on designing new imaging products. Another key role of my team is to validate the accuracy and performance of products that is currently under development. I find myself having these conversations around how performance can be improved 1-2% for a moderate cost of time. But based on x10 I keep saying that I’m happier with 10%. But why not more and say 100% better or 10 times better performance? That is the true better value situation that we have to get to, as a team, from our current situation.
While you can obviously see that these students are not yet there they are starting to get clear about where they want to go. They are thinking about their thinking. This is metacognition. This is real progress!
This week, a medical doctor practicing in a surgery in California, a MLatTh(SOT) student, said:
How can I improve my business by tenfold? How can I escape the CVS of my business to a BVS that is at least a 10 times better? How can I get 10 more clients? How can I get 10 more subscribers? How can I get 10 times more business associates? How can I improve my business 10 times better? How can I escape my current job 10 times faster? How can I deliver 10 times more value to my customers? How can I increase the size of their transaction by at least 10 times? How can I increase the frequency of my dealing with my clients by at least 10 folds? How can I become at least 10 times better at listening to my clients?
Again, this is early days, and he still has quite a journey ahead of him to achieve these things but he is already showing a clarity of x10 thinking about what will be required for him to create better value in his business.
These MLatTh(SOT) students and others are now on a two-year mentoring program with me to get them across the Impossible Barrier so that they can go beyond KNOWING about lateral thinking to DOING it and becoming world class performers. It’s an exciting daily practice and there’ll be more news to come.
On turning 70 this year, I was able to reflect that lateral thinking is now here to stay. It can’t unhappen! It’s a unique story. The School of Thinking was founded in New York in 1979 by an Australian soldier and a Maltese doctor who were both interested in promoting and teaching the idea of lateral thinking. The doctor had specialized knowledge about cognitive neuroscience and the soldier had specialized knowledge about military train-the-trainer methods. The unique combination of these two careers led to the design of the School of Thinking pedagogy. Since then SOT has given out over half a billion lessons worldwide on lateral thinking.
Now, in 2017, my own point-of-view for the MLatTh(SOT) program is to train 100 real masters of lateral thinking in the world by 2020. This will insure the continuity of lateral thinking, not just as an interesting, trendy idea for people to know about, but as a highly valuable strategic skill that more and more people are actually able to do … at will!
Do let me know if you would like to be considered for a place in this program. We’re taking up to100 students.