Acquiring New Knowledge at Breakneck Speed

See one, do one, teach one.  This three-step process pretty much explains how doctors are trained in the U.S. health system and how they develop their personal level of expertise. See one, do one, teach one.  Over and over and over again.

See one:  Observe a procedure and play close attention to see how the procure is done.  Ask many questions and listen intently.

Do one: The role of teacher and student are reversed.  At this stage, the learner actually does the procedure while being proctored (coached) by the experienced physician, providing the student with real-world experience.

Teach one: The former student, after having developed a certain level of expertise through experience, then assumes the role of teacher and the cycle continues on down the line.

While this technique has withstood the test of time and worked well in the training and development of our physicians, the question is: does this basic process work in the business world?  The answer is yes — but with certain modifications that will significantly expedite the learning curve for the newcomer.

In any professional businessperson’s career, there will be many times when new products, procedures or programs must be learned. Time is often in short supply and developing a level of proficiency is critical.

In order to achieve this level of competency, at the very least the protégé will need to achieve the following:

  • A thorough and complete knowledge of the product and/or process
  • A true understanding of how and why the system works
  • The ability to clearly articulate and explain this knowledge

In a career of mentoring, training and coaching professionals in my employ, I have found that one of the quickest and most efficient ways to get a person to achieve the necessary level of competency is to assign them the role of trainer. Whatever the product is, whether it be a physical product, a software package or a process, tell the person that you will need for them to teach the process to others, have them walk others through the particulars and clearly explain how things are done.

For this to be most effective, your instructions must include the following:

  • Clarity as to what must be learned
  • A definite timeframe or deadline in which it must be accomplished
  • Have the associate articulate back what is expected as well as the agreed-upon completion date.

Most people are conscientious enough that they will want to do their very best in teaching someone else how something is done.  They also will not want to be hit with questions they cannot answer. The only possible way they can achieve this goal is to thoroughly learn it themselves. They must develop a true knowledge of how the product (or process) works, its specific nuances and the points critical to understanding its essence. 

The astute professional will then use this basic technique on their own anytime they are faced with the learning of new techniques and/or products. By playing a game within our own minds that we are not learning a process, but are actually teaching the process, the whole attitude becomes one of confidence and positive reinforcement as we learn to better help others. As the old saying goes, the more we help others, the more we help ourselves.

It is a very simple mind game to play, but when played properly, will deliver tremendous benefits in productivity, efficiency and profitability.


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February 17, 2021 at 11:55 pm
Kevin Deeb

This is how new knowledge spreads at breakneck speed and replaces old . The technology world is moving at a breakneck speed and is penetrating every. It's essential that your knowledge and skills are kept fresh and current.


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