Thursday 16 June 2016

How sports teams "learn before doing"

Business can learn a lot from Sport.  In Knowledge Management terms, one of the things it can learn about is the practice of "Learning before Doing".

No sports team would take the field without spending a massive amount of time reviewing their own performance, reviewing the playing styles of the opposing team, and reviewing the preferences and biases of the referee.

Generally, in weekly sport with weekend matches, Monday is Analysis Day. The day is spent in performance analysis, in order to plan the coming week's training.

Much of this review is done through video, and through extensive video analysis of tactics and strategies; see here for a discussion of how a sports team can use video throughout their training week. There is an entire industry building up around video analysis software, and video analysis services, all with the aim of understanding your own team and your opponents. This can be an exposing affair - the statistics on individual players can show up the weak links as well as the star performers (see example) - but in today's intensive industry such honest and exposing learning makes the difference between success and failure.

So what can business learn from this?

I think there are a couple of points.

Firstly the more you "learn before doing", the better your results will be. You need to learn about yourselves to improve your methods and tactics, you need to learn about your competitors and their products and approaches, and you need to learn about your customers and clients.

Get data - get as much data as you can. understand it, analyse it, look for the root causes, and look for the learning. Reflect on your performance as an organisation after every intervention, every activity, every project. Ask "How can we do it better next time". Draw out the lessons. And next time, deliberately seek out the knowledge and the lessons as input into your plans. 

Secondly you need ruthless self-analysis. As a team, you need to know how you perform, and where your weak spots are, so you can work on them. Business is a ruthless game, but the purpose of a team is to draw out the best from all its members, and you need to know how to do this. So don't be worried if this self-analysis identifies weaknesses, so long as you have a plan to work on those weaknesses.

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