Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Feedback loops, experts and expertise

Reading this post from McGee's Musing on experts and expertise reminds me of Peter Drucker's approach to management and staying active as a practitioner. I couldn't find the specific Drucker quote I was looking for but did find this here from an interview with Drucker conducted in Spring 2000:
"Knowing Yourself
Throughout human history, it was the super achievers -- and only the super achievers -- who knew when to say "No." They always knew what to reach for. They knew where to place themselves. Now all of us will have to learn that. It's not very difficult. The key to it -- what Leonardo da Vinci and Mozart did -- is to record the results of our decisions.
Every time you do something that is important, write down what you expect will happen. The most important decisions in organizations are people decisions, and yet only the military, and only recently, has begun to ask, "If we assign this general to lead this base, what do we expect him to accomplish?" Three years later they look back at what they had written. They have now reached a point where 40 percent of their decisions work out.
The Roman Catholic Church is just beginning to ask the same question about bishops. "Why do we put the bishop into the diocese? What do we expect?" And the Church finds that a great majority of appointments do not fulfill expectations, because they get no feedback on their performance."

Following the trail in the McGee post to Fast Company, is this story from Ericsson about the medical profession:
"Can you explain how deliberate practice works?
Here's a typical example: Medical diagnosticians see a patient once or twice, make an assessment in an effort to solve a particularly difficult case, and then they move on. They may never see him or her again. I recently interviewed a highly successful diagnostician who works very differently. He spends a lot of his own time checking up on his patients, taking extensive notes on what he's thinking at the time of diagnosis, and checking back to see how accurate he is. This extra step he created gives him a significant advantage compared with his peers. It lets him better understand how and when he's improving. In general, elite performers utilize some technique that typically isn't well known or widely practiced."

I remember doing a similar thing once for a period of six months. While my driver was more self-protection than professional improvement, I do remember a couple of things from reviewing the outcomes I expected based on decisions that were made. One, when I was right, it made me more confident with the idea that I did see what I saw, hear what I heard and know what I knew. Two, when I was wrong, I had a framework from which to reflect on the assumptions and knowledge gaps that led to being wrong. I had created a feedback loop with myself that had a kind of personalized objectivity. An advantage to that process approach is that I could avoid some of the games we play when seeking feedback from others when trust is not established and we think we will be judged or shamed.

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