Knowledge Alone Is Not Power

Skill mastery is the key to success

I was recently watching my Villanova Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team win their 2nd national championship in 3 years, and my 11-year old son asked me something that really got me thinking.

He saw how good the team was, and – knowing that I am a teacher – he asked me how much time I thought they spent in a classroom to learn to play basketball like that.

My response was that they did not get that good by sitting in a classroom, but by practicing (individually and as a team). He then asked me why I spend so much time teaching in a classroom, as opposed to helping students practice.

We don’t expect athletes, or chefs, or carpenters to “master their craft” in a classroom. They must practice within their environment. Time in a classroom will help acquire knowledge, but that is not the ultimate goal. The intent of learning is to obtain a competency or master a skill and be able to apply knowledge to solve real-life problems. This typically means learning needs to continue outside the classroom and in the field of practice.

This concept applies in business as well. With all the changes happening today with technology and the digital transformation, being able to learn new skills is a critical key to success.

So, what are the steps for mastering a skill, and what types of learning can aid you along the journey?

Step 1 – Knowledge Acquisition

The first step is to learn the knowledge behind the skill. This can be accomplished via traditional learning approaches like live classroom or OnDemand training.

Step 2 – Knowledge Reinforcement

Typically, people will forget a lot of what they learn, especially if they don’t continuously practice it. This is called the ‘forgetting curve’. You need to ensure that the knowledge is retained and not forgotten. This can be by applying what you learned as practice, Q&A with experts or coaches, and using learning reinforcement systems.

Step 3 – Skill Development

In this step, you are converting knowledge into behavior. This is commonly done through role playing, simulations or coaching through a scenario. You make the connection between the knowledge and how it can be used in your environment/work. This experiential learning step ensures that you don’t just have the knowledge, but you know how and when to apply it.

Step 4 – Skill Application

You can now use those skills and put them into practice in your current job. The use of coaches and mentors, as well as performance support systems will help during this process as you are applying your skills.

Step 5 – Skill Mastery

In this final step, you typically are using your skills in a way that is changing performance outcomes related to your job. You should validate these outcomes with analytics and continue to monitor them to ensure you are applying your skills. Becoming a mentor, coach or teacher will help you maintain your mastery.

While it is important to know what learning options are available and what support you have on every level of the journey, it is equally important to be able to evaluate yourself at each level. Similar to learning, not all assessments are equal. Certain assessments can test knowledge transfer and retention and others can test skills mastery. At Qlik, we just launched free role-based qualification exams for Qlik Continuous Classroom subscribers and Instructor-Led Training students to test their knowledge. For customers looking to assess their skills mastery, they can try one of our role based certifications.

Knowledge alone isn’t power… it’s mastering skills that open the door to success. Kevin Hanegan provides 5 key steps to get on the right path.

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