Do stuff. Fail. Learn. Repeat. Build up competences.

for students for graduates for beginners for professionals not for executives

 

It is very difficult to show when you achieve competences. For example: I visited a basic and an advanced seminar on simulation software for optics. Do I feel competent? No. I am lacking practice. And here is a simple key of achieving competence: Learning by doing. It is simple yet effective.  Let us check how to achieve greatness by achieving compenteces.

A simple example with cooking

Personally I like cooking very much and I do it neraly daily. I do not need recepies anymore, there is just a simple look into the fridge and a screening of possible ingredients and I combine everything to taste. I feel competent in cooking. I know how to cut a zucchini or an onion efficiently without thinking too much about it, I know how much water the rice needs, which veggies have to come first to have all cooked in the end to the same softness. But how did I become a good cook? I just cooked. Yes, there have been times that I failed and my dishes were … unsatisfactory. But I barely repeated errors. I learned and at some point I did not had to think anymore about certain minor steps. I mastered my process, I am specialised in it. And then, I started to think about my product aka dish.

How to engage a competence

Competences are a matter of practice. Whether, it is you want to learn, you have to practice it repeatedly: Cooking, dancing or electronical PCB design or structuring projects or giving small talk to persons. At some point, we all started with no skill and then learned each time a bit. So, to tackle a competence you have to ask yourself several questions and give simple tasks.

  1. What is the competence you want to achieve?
  2. Can you split the way to your goal up into pieces?
  3. What is the next smallest piece you can achieve? Try it
  4. Repeat 3 until you fail.
  5. What have you done wrong? How can you make it better next time?
  6. Start over and then continue at 3.

I would like to give here an example with owning an ice cream shop. In the beginning, you might have a recipe or a description of a certain ice cream style that you would like to sell. And now, let us consider that you start with the making but forgot to buy the cream. You will for sure never forget to buy cream ever again or pile a stock for the next sessions. Next time, you put the wrong temperature in, maybe a bit to warm. And again, you will next time not make this error again or are more aware about it. After several tries, you have mastered the art of making ice cream with this one single recipe. You do not need it anymore, you can do it by heart. You are competent in making this very specific ice cream.

Product over processes

Unfortunally, most companies think about products they can develop and then they adapt a certain process to it. However, it is sometimes more efficient to put the known process upfront and then modify the product.

Coming back to the ice cream example, it is clear that for the shop it makes more sense to diverse in different styles of ice cream (strawberry, chocolate, et cetera) than to offer cake or other sweets. Diversification of products by mastering of a process is very elegant. Another way is to offer products of the same type but at different price points. Ice cream made out of cream is too expensive for some? You offer a cheaper version from simple milk.

So, the next time you innovate, maybe try to stick to your process in which you are competent and modify the product. 

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