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Can You Achieve True Peak Performance Just by Training and Learning Interventions?

Performance function

Concept of ‘Performance by learning’  is that performance is function of learning and it improves with amount of learning. But our research shows that ‘performance by learning’ model has some limitations. There is limit to the level you can teach someone some knowledge, limit the level of practice you can have on particular skill and limit the level you can have correct attitudes without interference. And most important flaw in traditional training is that there is a limit to level of mastery you can get over your environment.

Trainable Part of Performance

Historically Learning is considered as function of several factors which includes knowledge, skills and attitude. Overall amount of learning, if it could be quantified, is a complex function of how much do you know, what exactly you can do and how well you can do and it is also function of how much practice (or experience) you are gaining in applying it. Learning takes time. That’s why you see “time” factor in its equation.

Let’s first see what do we learn in our day-to-day life at university, job and personal life. The parents, the teachers and the bosses “train” us to be good in it. Let’s see what it is composed of.

Knowledge (K):

Knowledge could be information, analysis, and evaluation and collectively it means what you know from lower plane of understanding to higher plane of evaluation or synthesis. In simple words “knowledge means what you know”.

Skills (S):

Generally refers to something you can do which is verifiable or demonstrable. In simpler words “skill is what you know you can do”.


You might be using this interchangeably to mean several other things. However, ability (no shown in figure) is an intermediate term which refers to total sum of Knowledge and Skill. In simpler worlds abilities means : You “can” do it. You have been equipped to do it, but we are yet to see the disposition how effectively you do it.”

Don’t you hear that very often from your colleagues and managers when you come out a training course? “You are not yet there”. You may want to read my detailed post on Interplay of Knowledge, Skills and Abilities.

Attitude (A):

This is what comes next why your manager may have made that comment. Attitude is an important component which defines how you do it and how you do it differently. Attitude in professional world means disposition which is represented by attributes like attitude, behavior, approach, methods, techniques and sometimes mind-set.

You may have a great employee with great abilities but you are always unhappy with the way he does the things. Looks familiar? You may have two employees exactly equal in knowledge and skills (remember these both can be measure and quantified), but in the crucial time at crucial customer when things are at stake who is the one you can send right away without hesitation? Think. Yeah, you got it right – the one with outstanding attitude”.  Remember attitude may mean several things including his approach and behavior. You may want to read the detailed post I wrote on game changing importance of attitude in transforming abilities into competence and another post on how do you make your abilities visible by correct attitudes.


This is something you will encounter more often in your work place.

Knowledge + Skill + Attitude = Competence

In simpler terms, Competence means: you “can” do it!! You have “right disposition” to do it. Given right opportunity you should be able to do it, but you have not proved it yet in real-life situation.

Environment (E):

So far what I wrote is what has been taught by our teachers, parents, colleagues, professors and mentors over the years. Most of the knowledge, skill and attitudes are perfectly trainable and can be learned by an individual. Now let’s take a look how how you use all that you learned in a professional world.  Have you heard your manager telling you that ‘I know you are competence, but I am not sure what is holding you back giving a great performance’. Here is the reason why. There is crucial component which makes your competence visible to world. This is called “environment”. What is the environment? It could mean several things including real Job environment, closer-to-life issue or problem, real-life scenarios, changing conditions and situations you encounter around you within which you are required to work. There are many internal and external environment factor and variables which may affect your competence. External factors could be- pressure, competition, job stress, relationships, etc. Example a great boss who trust your abilities may do wonder for you. Internal factors could be negative or positive. Sometimes jealously with your peers, a negative internal factor, also plays an important role developing competence.

Performance: The final Output

Not everyone gets ideal environment. And then several other professionals do work in same environment as you. Then why do you feel he is being noticed more than you? Don’t you see last you scored ‘outstanding rating’ and this year it was just ‘good’. Why? Because the competence when interacts with environment and comes in visible form is called PERFORMANCE (this is what you are actually able to do). If you see most of the time there is big struggle with environment and you continuously keep practicing to master it. Slide5 Your entire competence may or may not transform into performance. Environment acts an important transfer function and it depends on it how much of your competence actually get converted as performance.  If you are able to assess the environment around you, be able to anticipate the factors that may impact your results, react fast to those factors and then plan for any unforeseen changes, then a point reaches when you get to know rules to control your environment. That’s the stage of maximum performance you can derive from yourself as a result of all the trainable ‘stuff’ you learned in years. So as an average learner or as an average performer, once you get handle on environment, you should be able to achieve maximum performance by suitably using your learning of years. This is fundamentally the trainable part of the ‘Performance by Learning’ model. We have seen examples of people showing great performance through great learning and training provided it is orchestrated correctly.

True Peak Performance

Performance vs. Learning

Going back to theory of ‘performance by learning’  then it appears that performance is a complex function of learning (at least research has no evidence that it is simple linear function). If it is a function , then like every function this also bound to have some maxima. If it has maxima, that means at certain learning level, the possibility to take performance beyond certain level is not possible. It also suggests that performance is not proportional to learning. In other words not entire learning of an individual will convert into performance. To emphasize it, let’s take an example. You may be highly skilled, knowledgeable, with years of practice and “wow” attitudes to problems, but you may still be far away from your own ‘best’. It is because performance does not necessarily come out only from learning. From my research it appears that ‘Performance by Learning’ model stops at a stage called ‘jump’ which can be deemed maximum performance outcome from an individual and that’s the outcome which comes due to all the learning an individual accumulated over the years. Is that the maximum you can get out of you? If that’s true, 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. 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”. Read my other post on A stage of ‘fly’ – the breakthrough peak performance in the meantime what I mean by ‘True peak performance’. This is basically a stage where you establish yourself as an ‘expert’. It raises three questions:

  1. What are the ‘other’ ingredients of ‘true peak performance’ outside factors linked to one’s learning and training?
  2. Can anyone achieve that ‘true peak performance’?
  3. If yes, then how can we accelerate the journey to achieve this ‘true peak’ sooner?

In my research I am getting some insights and I will share some findings on what appears to control the ‘true peak performance’ stage without having to depend heavily in “trainable” concept.

Image Credits: EGA (http://www.ega.or.th/Files/20131126031802.pdf)

About Raman K. Attri

Raman K. Attri is a complex learning strategist, a transformational training consultant and a researcher with over 20 years of experience in engineering, management and technical training. His primary area of focus is to provide strategic directions to organizations in implementing next-generation competitive training strategies. His research interests include complex learning, accelerated expertise and advanced instructional design. He is also the founder of Personal Resonance©, a research forum with a charter to transform proven research studies on accelerated expertise into organizational training practices. His training and learning solutions are strongly founded in system engineering techniques applied to large-scale training programs. Equipped with scientific training methods, he innovated two research-backed complex learning frameworks namely SEAT© (Systems Engineering Approach to Training) and ProBT© (Proficiency Based Training) methodology primarily meant for organizations to accelerate development of complex cognitive skills of their employees systematically at faster rate. He is highly passionate about learning. He holds Professional Doctorate in Corporate Training, MBA in Operations Management and Executive MBA in Customer Relationship Management. Currently he is pursuing another Doctorate degree from Southern Cross University. His personal interests involve writing and painting.
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