Here's a workplace conundrum: why is it that, -over time, some health-care workers - ma.mmographers for example - can become less proficient?
The answer is that once these hospital workers make a diagnosis it frequently takes time to determine the accuracy of their findings.
"After reading a typical mammogram and making a diag-nosis," write educators Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi, authors of Practice Perfect, "they experience a long delay in their feedback loop. They make the call and find out if they were right only weeks or months later. By then they've forgotten what made them decide and perhaps feel a bit less urgency about (what) led them to be right or wrong."
But by "shortening the feedback loop" - Rule No. 25 of the 42 rules proffered by the authors for steady improve-ment, or "getting. better at getting better" - we humans can improve our performance at work, school, athletics or any new activity, such as playing a musical instrument or learn-ing to ride a motorcycle.
Drawing on research and insights from not just the academy but the worlds of business, the military and sports as well as everyday life experiences, the authors provide a litany of teachable moments.
For example, they demonstrate the surprising power of "fast and frequent" feedback for improving skills. It was a training method that became a key principle adhered to by John Wooden, the late legendary UCLA basketball coach. The method was so critical to his teams' successes that Wooden was "notoriously obsessive" about it. As one player reported, "He believed correction was wasted unless done immediately."
One of the authors' colleagues learned the significance of instant analysis when he took lessons in motorcycle-riding. Lest the fledgling motorcyclist develop bad - and dangerous- techniques, "There were two coaches, one who demonstrated and explained and sent him through a short course marked with obstacles and a second who stood waiting, every time he completed the course, to give him immediate feedback ... before he even took off his helmet."