The Performance Paradox
DO YOU get stuck in chronic performance? It’s that pressure you feel to get every task done as flawlessly as possible—and then some. A never-ending game of catch-up. So, we work harder to get things done. Hard work leads to better performance, right? The answer to that question is what Eduardo Briceño calls The Performance Paradox.
The performance paradox is the counterintuitive phenomenon that if we want to improve our performance, we have to do something other than just perform. No matter how hard we work, if we only do things as best as we know how, trying to minimize mistakes, we get stuck at our current levels of understanding, skills, and capabilities. Too often, the performance paradox tricks us into chronic performance, which leads to stagnation.
If we focus only on performing, our performance suffers. So, if working harder isn’t the answer, what do we do?
The answer lies in learning to learn—a mindset of growth—in conjunction with performance. Briceño calls it the Learning Zone. It’s filled with curiosity, experimentation, and change. When used in combination the Performance Zone, we grow into higher levels of performance. Rather than just doing things the best we know how, we learn beyond the known to new levels of performance. “Regular engagement in the Learning Zone allows you to uncover and learn ways to work smarter, more efficiently, and more effectively.”
It’s not just learning from doing but learning while doing that will lead us to higher levels of performance. “Improvement and high performance in any domain come down to making sure we engage in two distinct but equally powerful states of mind: the Learning Zone and the Performance Zone. Each has a different purpose and requires a distinct focus and set of tools.” Both mindsets can be used simultaneously.
Once you distinguish between the two zones, it’s easy to see why so many of us get caught up in the performance paradox. Most organizations were simply not built with learning in mind.
Briceño explains how to integrate learning into doing. A know-it-all culture kills superior performance. The Performance Zone can provide valuable feedback if we are looking for it. Learning provides the catalyst to push us out of our comfort zone, stay relevant, and build our skills to perform smarter.
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