In 1967, when I was twenty, I won a $1 million personal growth program from the Commonwealth of Australia.
At that time a lottery was held and 366 marbles were put in a barrel–one for every possible birthdate of 20 year-old males. My birthdate, 22 May, was one of those selected and I won a two-year stint, called National Service, in the Australian Army
A place called Scheyville, OTU
One of the little known but interesting facts of the Viet Nam era was the Australian Government’s selection of a small number of national servicemen, at an investment of $1 million per trainee, for an intensive leadership training program at a place called Scheyville, OTU (pronounced like ‘sky-ville’).
This little known place is where the army taught some of it’s most valuable leadership IP (intellectual property): how to teach young men to lead other young men into battle. This IP has been developed over thousands of years of military science and at a very high price.
The Officer Training Unit, or OTU, at Scheyville near Windsor in Western Sydney, NSW was a life-changing, peak experience for the young men who were selected (unfortunately there were no women called up for national service during the Viet Nam era). As OTU cadets, we became immersed in a rigorous training schedule.
First was the 30-day pipeline followed by a total of 154 days and nights, learning not only the memes of military science but also highly useful skills for life. We were also given memes for instructional techniques, strategic thinking and advanced perceptual skills, leadership strategies, confidence and survival skills, social etiquette, and tact (which I failed). I seem to have failed on tact a number of times since then but I’m working on it.
Scheyville OTU was closed down after Viet Nam but its leadership memes still survive. It was a very effective program and an unusually high percentage of these trainees were later to become leaders in Australian business, military and government sectors including Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer; Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett; CEO of Blackmore’s Ltd, Marcus Blackmore; decorated combat helicopter pilot, Major Terry Hayes DFC; computer entrepreneur, Wilson McOrist and others.
In my case, it allowed me to study the army’s most effective training strategies which I later distilled, packaged and transferred to both the School of Thinking and to my private clients like Jack Welch of GE.
Superior training strategies
The strategies of military training have been far superior to any school or business training I have ever been exposed to. I suppose when you think of the severity of the bottom line, it’s no surprise that military science, over thousands of years, has evolved very robust and potent training algorithms.
At Scheyville, the army revealed its best training secrets, the ones they employed to train recruits for battle. In addition to a wide repertoire of specific techniques, there were two main training strategies that I took away from OTU and I have used them ever since.
They are: 1. digital training and 2. daily training.
The army’s selection procedure for national servicemen was not elitist. Recruits were simply selected by a lottery. Provided those ‘winners’ passed fairly general health standards, they were sent off to the recruit training battalions. Yet, they were to be trained for the ultimate bottom line–not customer service but facing enemy fire.
So the army’s training mission was a tough one. How do you teach difficult, unfamiliar tasks to the average man off the street so that these tasks can be performed even under duress in highly emotional situations?
The army didn’t call it digital training, they called it Training By Numbers, which is the same thing. It’s a very clever algorithm of breaking down complex tasks into small, bite-sized memes. Then converting them into strong cognitive patterns using practice, repetition and rehearsals. Then gradually building them back up again into smooth, robust skills.
In addition, the army were the first to use personal trainers except they were called drill instructors. At Scheyville, we had some of the army’s best instructors acting as our personal trainers. And we had them every day and every night!
There is only one thing more powerful than training and its very, very much more powerful. It’s called: daily training.
Whenever is is necessary to develop the ability to perform skills with a degree of excellence–virtuosity–nothing beats daily training. Because of the need for virtuosity, dancers and musicians use daily training. Because of the need for virtuosity, pilots and surgeons use daily training.
It has been my experience that ‘daily training’ is sadly lacking in business training and that may account for it’s poor reputation and overall lack of virtuosity.
In the corporate world of 2017, the training department is rarely taken seriously at board level. I believe it’s because the training department cannot measure it’s direct contribution to the bottom line.
If the HR manager could prove that a $1 million investment in training will show a direct, measureable increase in profits then he or she would have the full attention of the board, but they cannot.
I believe this is due to poor training strategies which do not involve daily personal training. I believe it is because of a focus on short term results rather than on long term virtuosity.
I put this view to a big audience of trainers once in New Orleans when I was invited to speak at the American Society for Training and Development (and now you can see why I failed ‘tact’). They were outraged at the suggestion that training departments were not held in high esteem by corporate boards in the US. In defense of my view, I then challenged the audience to name the CEO of just one Fortune 500 corporation who had come from the training department. There was an uncomfortable silence.
CEOs are selected from sales, marketing, finance, engineering and operations. Even from R&D. But I have never yet seen a CEO employed from training. However, I have seen the reverse. I have seen CEOs employ training. For example, Tom Watson of IBM was famous for using the ‘big corporate meeting’ as a medium to meme his managers and employees and provide them with personal training.
One of the best examples of how a CEO has employed training to meme his managers has been the way Jack Welch used his own intensive training unit at Crotonville-on-Hudson. ‘Professor Jack’, as he was often called, has provided thousands of hours of personal training to thousands of GE managers at GE’s own management training establishment.
In multiplying GE by ten, Jack Welch has often attempted to explain to the media and others the strategic role that Crotonville-on-Hudson has played in getting his spectacular results as CEO of what became, by the time Jack left it, the most valuable company in the istory of the world.
I believe one of the biggest opportunities for using X10 to multiply your business by ten is to X10 your training investment, especially in the use of daily training to get measurable results.
Whatever you train every day will give you virtuosity and get the best results. If you use daily personal training in customer service, you will get virtuosity in customer service and get big measurable results in customer service. If you use daily personal training in innovation, you will get virtuosity in innovation and get measurable results in innovation. If you use daily personal training in profit strategies, you will get virtuosity and measurable results in profit strategies.
I believe the standards of profit strategies, innovation and customer service in Australian companies are way below the potential abilities of Australian employees working in these areas. In my experience, it is because so little attention is given to daily training in these skills.
The Main Point – PRR
If you just want to know something you can learn it in a sitting. But if you want to perform a skill with virtuosity, then that requires multiple sittings–practice, repetition and rehearsals. In thought-leadership training we call that PRR.
Pipeline philosophy allows us to set up a platform of multiple sittings so you can move from knowledge to skill to virtuosity.
DFQ #03: What is the most important idea you will take away from this lesson?