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How to Build Skills

Many people think that knowledge and skill is the same thing but they clearly aren’t.  They are two completely different elements. Knowledge is learning about something. We can read a book and we can talk knowledgeably about it, but not have the skill to actually do it. So skill is all about doing it. Knowledge is just what needs to be done, not necessarily how to do it.

Let’s start with knowledge. We have to understand what we are trying to achieve and once we know that, we then go about practising it over and over again, until we have mastered the skill.We can think about it like somebody who needs to learn to use the internet and Google. We all take that for granted but someone who has never been exposed to it needs to be taken through a step by step approach on how to actually do it.We start off by explaining what the internet is. This is the knowledge element.
What it is all about and how one actually uses it for a particular gain.

Converting Knowledge to a Skill

Let’s examine then, how we convert that knowledge to skill. Knowing firstly what to do(knowledge) and then how to do it (skill). It starts off by telling somebody what needs to be done. Let’s imagine a typical teenager. I think of my teenagers when they were still at a private school and getting very good grades, yet when you ask them to wash a car you have got to go right down to basics to teach them a new skill.

One would think someone who is scoring straight A’s, shouldn’t need to be taught how to wash a car and yet we know that they do. If we don’t take them through a structured approach we are not going to get the end result that we want. We can show them a picture of a clean car and ask them to do it but they won’t necessarily know to wipe those shiny parts and take away the white lines or to clean the windows with a chamois cloth to get rid of any soap marks. There is a process we have to follow and it starts with us telling them what is expected of them.We need to go through the process which is the knowledge element and then show them an example so that they can actually see what we mean. I might do the fender, for example, and say that’s what a clean fender should look like and that’s how you must do it.

So now we have taken them through the phase of initially telling, followed by showing. The next stage is of course letting them try it themselves under supervision and once they have done it give them feedback on how they are doing, either positive or negative.It is this four point process that actually builds a skill.

Ken Blanchard actually mastered that and of all the things that I have looked at to enable a skill to be developed, I still come back to that very simple process.

1) Tell
2) Show
3) Let them Try
4) Give Feedback

It’s simple, effective and it makes sense. If we teach somebody to wash a car following this process, they will quickly master it, given of course that they firstly want to, and secondly that they have the inherent capability.

If that straight A student, doesn’t actually want to learn, you have a separate problem. Given that they do want to, then you need to take them through the process. However, if going through that process over and over where they desperately want to master it, but just don’t get it, and after many repeats, still haven’t mastered it, then perhaps there is an ability issue. Believe it or not, not everybody can do everything. If somebody tries and tries and despite being extremely willing and intelligent,just does not get it, then they might not have the aptitude for that particular task.

So we need to understand that to develop a skill is different from the knowledge element. Just because we read the book and we can speak the speak it doesn’t mean we can do it.We need to go through tell, show, let them try and give them feedback on how they are doing and it is through this process that we get them to develop the required skill.

Blanchard has always taught us that feedback is the breakfast of champions.