Studies of learning and the associated psychology have resulted in a model for what we now refer to as the learning curve. This model can be applied to our efforts to improve across many disciplines and industries. Everybody has felt that desire to quickly become good at something; organizations and businesses also want to rapidly scale the learning curve to the point where they can start producing useful output and realize significant gains from efficiency measures, such as self-priming water pumps or outsourcing repetitive tasks. While the simplest way to get better at something could be investing hours of effort, these three practices will further reduce your time and energy commitment in order to reach the point of competence.
Shorter feedback loops
In most endeavors, our desire to get better is fueled by the feedback of others. Businesses with an end product or service need to make sure that it adequately fills the needs of their target audience. Individuals may want to improve their skills to become more attractive to current or prospective employers. Even in a self-contained hobby, such as art, you may want to sharpen your skills to please an audience of family and friends. Most of us know that getting feedback from our audience will play a key role in continuous improvement; however, not everyone is able to harness the power of short feedback loops in this respect. When end-users get their hands on a complex product, they can discover many areas for improvement; at that stage, businesses hate to go back to the drawing board with their manufacturer. Likewise, individuals honing a skill can overlook fundamentals which turn out to be essential for the company or team they would be working with. A short feedback loop allows you to present concepts and demonstrate skills to quickly catch and address basic flaws.
Varied feedback sources
Timely feedback is vital, but ensuring that you consult with various sources for feedback will further facilitate improvement and speed your progress along the learning curve. An organization works with various stakeholders; from the consumer who may not know or be able to articulate what they really want until they see it, to the different teams and members involved in delivering a product or service, each of these roles will offer a unique perspective on what can be done to improve. Individual efforts in skills such as design or writing can benefit from rapid improvement as well when you consult with a diverse group – potential audience members, experts in a specific style, or peer groups of creators and enthusiasts.
The early stages of the learning curve can be the most difficult because the product of your efforts isn’t up to the standards you envision. This can be frustrating for any individual attempting to learn a new skill, or for teams who are under pressure to deliver a working prototype. The staple product we now know as WD-40, for instance, was only created after 39 failed attempts; it can’t have been easy, but everyone involved wasn’t just going to give up, either. Thus, constantly ensuring motivation on the part of those involved is critical to getting past the steep parts of the curve and into the realm of functional production.
The well-known 10,000-hour rule demonstrates that learning requires a lot of time and effort, but you can use these methods to climb the learning curve and get better in various disciplines over a shorter time.