Learning is the development of new competence and new capacity for action--action that was unavailable prior to the learning experience. In our world, understanding is nice, but action is what matters.

I do a training aimed at producing what I call "embodied competence." Embodied means that you have the capacity to take new action automatically. You don't have to stop and think about it or look it up in a book. Instead, you have expanded your repertoire of automatic moves. Competence means that you can consistently take action that produces the desired results.

The only way to produce embodied competence is through practice. You consistently do a series of generative practices, which once embodied, enable you to innovate your own unique usage. Reading and playing music is an example of a generative practice: once you learn to read and play music, you can play any type you choose.

The vast majority of learning efforts don't work because they are based on an outdated view of the process. A typical offering today would be a new book, CD or a one-day course full of tips and techniques. The outcome for would-be learners may include new understanding, but it will not build new competence.

The reason is simple: you can produce understanding in a day, but the development of authentic embodied competence takes practice, patience, perseverance, and a coach.

Reflect on your own life experience and you'll find that these elements were always present any time you learned anything that became an embodied competence. Let's say you want to improve your golf game. (You can substitute "your networking game" here if you prefer.) To get started, you might buy one of the seemingly endless range of how-to products, books, and tapes available. You might buy some new clubs or watch Tiger Woods on the tour. But none of these moves will improve your game. They may provide some understanding of what you want to learn--but they won't make you any better.

If you want to get better, you will go to a golf course, engage the pro as your coach and take some lessons. You won't try to impress the coach with how much you already know or pretend that you don't really need help. Instead, you'll do what the coach tells you.

In terms of learning complex competencies, such as leadership, management, building relationships and teams, or developing genuine power in the world, the "tips and techniques" approach simply won't work. Instead, you need to engage in an authentic learning process that is designed to produce the desired new competence. And that's training.


CHRIS MAJER is president of
The Human Potential Project (www.humanpotentialproject.com).