You can learn more from failure than success…

Monday August 23, 10

You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you’re forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality.

Fred Brooks

I was reading an article on about designing and Fred Brooks Monday.  It struck me that design theory for technology industry is true in sport as well.

I’ll be debriefing a number of athletes after this past weekend’s triathlon National Championships. As a coach, I need to acknowledge the failures in order to help athletes improve.  At the same time, I need to recognize and reward success.  Its a delicate balance.

The toughest part in sport is contextual interpretation of results.  Was a poor performance really a poor performance? Or did everyone do poorly that day?  Was it wind, rain, temperature, course changes, etc.?  Similarly, was an excellent truly excellent? Or was everyone faster?

Separating facts from fiction and evidence from distractions is critical in the debrief.

I especially like the following  thoughts;

  • The critical thing about the design process is to identify your scarcest resource.
  • start with a vision not a list of features
  • You build a quick prototype and get it in front of users to see what they do with it.
  • constant incremental iterations

As I plan 2011, I’ll keep these ideas in mind- especially the first two.



technique corrections

Friday May 14, 10

A quick post on sport technique coaching-

Improving / correcting technique is a tricky task, especially in experienced athletes.  “Experienced” can mean high performance athletes or simply athletes who have been training a long time.  Either way they have built up habits and motor patterns.

If we think about “good” technique being;

  • minimal risk of injuries; to the athlete from overuse and other sources
  • optimal stability; both within the athlete and the athlete relative to the environment
  • optimal efficacy; it does the intended task whether moving through water, on land, on a bike, in a kayak, etc.
  • optimal efficiency; energy consumed to work performed
  • optimal for the integrations of other required elements; starts, turns and navigation in swimming, drafting and pacing on a bike, surfing in a surfski, etc.)

Very often a technical problem has a cause that may not be apparent.  A skilled technical coach addresses the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

I was taught by a very skilled technical coach in canoe that to source out a technical problem you often have to look two or more joints closer to the core.

Where things get complicated is that a technical problem may have multiple compensations in other joints and movements to mimic “good technique“.  If we were to use algebra to express this;

A is good technique

A’ is a copy of good technique that has a technique problem B needing compensations C, D and E

thus A’=B+C+D+E

To an unskilled coach it may appears by fixing problem B, or A’-B becomes A

Where in reality A’-B= C + D + E

So by fixing one problem, the coach and athlete are left dealing with compensations C, D and E.

Part of the art of coaching is seeing the good technique, identifying the underlying problems AND the compensations in place then planning and implementing a successful intervention that promotes learning.