You can’t hit if you don’t swing

The Mad Scientist Laboratory recently had a good episode with author Zach Schonbrun to discuss his work researching cognition and performance.

It’s great when military podcasts speak with military folk – but it’s refreshing when they step away and speak with the rest of the world.

Since that’s the world we live in.

Two things struck me in this episode:

“What does it mean to say that he’s skilled? What does that actually mean? The sports industry has not really grappled with this question because it involves very difficult assessments beyond just how fast an athlete runs or how high he jumps. Those are the metrics that they tend to focus on because they’re easily measureable [but] I don’t think that tells you very much about what athlete they’re going to become.”

Zach Schonbrun, 414. It’s All In Your Head

“Those are the metrics that they tend to focus on because they’re easily measurable…”

Over and over again, we’re hearing this. We have a problem with metrics. There are dysfunctional consequences of relying on metrics.

And the answer isn’t simply “we need better ways to measure” or “big data and AI will save us.”

There are tangible things that are worth measuring, but there are also intangible things that we’re not paying attention to. And just because we can’t measure them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

And #2. How do hitters know when to swing?

They’re using prediction. They’re picking up on very subtle cues, that take years and years of practice and expertise, and that has told them this is what they should be expecting in this situation.

Zach Schonbrun, 414. It’s All In Your Head

Prediction versus analysis. Does the hitter have to “prove” that they know when to swing? That they’ll get a hit?

Sometimes (most times) they miss. But each swing is a rep.

We expect batters to miss. It’s part of the game. What would be the effect on a batter if they received a steep penalty for missing?

Think about where that might be happening in other organizations.


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