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Practice vs. Preparation

In one of my favorite podcasts from The Tobolowsky Files, master story teller and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky (think Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day) deftly explores the difference between practice and preparation. While practice involves “repetition of a task in order to rise to the highest level of personal expertise” (think piano scales), preparation is about “conveying everything you’ve learned in practice to others” (as in a performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune).

In order to be effective in “conveying everything you’ve learned in practice,” you need the right mix of concentration (to stay focused) and relaxation (to be aware of others and interact appropriately). Part of preparation is also eliminating as many unknowns as possible, or as Tobolowsky’s riding coach tells him, “to bring more things under your control.” In the case of a piano performance, this would include checking out the performance venue before the concert in order to discover keys that stick or a squeaky piano bench.

If someone had explained to me the difference between practice and preparation earlier in my career, I would now be better rested.

Because the “others” to whom we are conveying keep changing, the work of preparation is never done.  We at MotivAction know the foundational elements in creating an effective incentive or recognition program (practice), but those are always applied to unique circumstances and to a specific audience (preparation). So we begin every program by confirming your goal and validating the widely held assumptions in your organization before designing anything.

And that’s the point at which we rely upon you—our clients—to fill in our knowledge gaps and help us understand the context in which we are operating. And together, we can create programs that accomplish your objectives, motivate your audience to do more, and hit all of the right notes.