Refer back to my blog post on “Can You Achieve True Peak Performance Just by Training and Learning Interventions?” I said that performance is a complex function of learning (certainly not linear). My research reveals that performance vs. learning curve is not a simple bell curve either as I depicted in above blog . If it is a function, then like every function this also bound to have some maxima. I also said that not all cumulative learning of an individual will convert into performance.
In the performance vs. learning function, we found in our research that there were several stages or levels of performance as shown in figure:
Stage 1: Crawl Stage of Performance
The first level performance comes through training event or the very first learning event. During this event, the performance rises sharply but only to certain level. This is termed as ‘crawl stage’ in which you are yet to figure out how you would make the most of the learning you just received. This sudden rise is similar to charging of the capacitor. In this stage, you can perform only to a certain level as a result of training irrespective of how much you learned during the training event.
Stage 2: Steady Stage of Performance
If you do not give any reinforcement or practice to this newly learned information, you may lose the performance eventually. However, in professional world, we usually practice what we learned and that’s how we start building performance steadily. This is termed as the STEADY state.
The slope of steady state can be changed by reinforcement. Larger the amount of reinforcement longer you keep the rate of slope intact. This enables you to reach to a level of optimal performance. You got to reach this level as a professional to survive your day-to-day jobs responsibilities. This is minimum level you have to show to survive in the job.
Stage 3 and 4: Run and Jump Stage of Performance
As you start getting more opportunities to better handle the unpredictable parameters of your environment, you get a sharp increase in performance. The beginning portion is called RUN and later portion is called JUMP. Usually this is the strategic component of your learning that makes you shine in your job or profession for a short time.
This leads you to achieve MAXIMUM performance. This is the maximum performance you can achieve with a given combination of skills, knowledge, attitude and environment i.e. all the learning an individual accumulated over the years.
Here is where things defy rules. Even if you continue learning more and more at this stage, it would not mean your performance will improve. Also an interesting finding is that it declines more as you learn more. That means after a certain point your learning should not add to performance and further it may mean you don’t need to learn anything more or maybe learn something different. This becomes an interesting question. Isn’t it surprising as against the conventional theories? Reason probably is…now you need new opportunities to experiment with. And if you don’t get it, your performance will start declining.
As usual you cannot maintain it at same level due to dynamics of environment. We observed an inherent capacitive-type decay effect in performance.
The critical question is: Is this performance the maximum possible performance an individual can deliver? It may be a silly question. By definition it is termed “maximum”. Right? But real answer is NO. In our research we found that there is one more stage after ‘run and jump’.
Stage 5: Fly Stage of Performance
We have seen examples of breakthrough exceptional performances of certain individuals which could not be explained by ‘Performance as function of learning’. There are some evidences that there exist a stage of ‘breakthrough performance’ which potentially cannot be accounted for through relationship with learning or training interventions. That means there is something ‘else’ to this equation which may result in “true peak performance”. This is basically a stage where you establish yourself as an ‘expert’.
It seems that at one point in your life there comes the “breakthrough” when you know how to use your skill, knowledge and attitude to make it resonate with your environment to give you all possible channels leading to a FLY stage leading to the true peak performance. Breakthrough is certain set of alignments of internal and external forces in your personality, behavior and learning which opens up gates for new possibilities for your personal performance and expertise. This is the stage which the organizations ideally would want to drive their top talent to be. This is the breakthrough point where they can transform their top managers or employees into leaders with peak performance.
In my subsequent posts I will shed more light on what factors control this transition from jump stage to fly stage and how corporations can accelerate professional expertise of their employees to bring this breakthrough occur fast. In the meantime read how aligning passions to your cumulative learning leads to shorter time-to-peak performance and also 2 things which are must to achieve the breakthrough earlier.