Sharing insights

Jacqie Tran gave a presentation at the recent Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand pre-conference. Her presentation was titled From insights to decisions: Knowledge sharing in sports analytics and has been uploaded to Slideshare.

I thought this was a great topic to choose. It is an excellent way to share a learning journey and invite others to reflect on their practices.

I have been following Jacquie’s work for a number of years and see her as a very important voice in a community of practice that I hope might become a sport version of the R-Ladies movement.

R-Ladies is a diversity initiative that aims “to achieve proportionate representation by encouraging, inspiring, and empowering people of genders currently underrepresented in the R community”. I believe sport needs this too.

I have grabbed three slides from Jacquie’s presentation (in her delightful sketchnote style) to acknowledge the significance of the issues she was raising:

I have always thought that this sharing required social skills that historically have been described as ‘soft’ skills. In many sport science contexts, certainly in the foundation years of the discipline, these skills were disparaged. This is changing …

Which means we can start talking about:

Glueing needs some patience. I think it involves following, advocating, leading and sharing. In my qualitative research terms, it takes lots of time ‘being around‘ in sport contexts.

Jacquie and her generation have remarkable skills to contribute to this glue work. I trust that her open sharing of her ideas stimulates substantial conversations about the social synapses that make it possible to share insights with decision-makers that transform performance.

Photo Credit

Jacquie Tran (Jacquie Tran website)

Thinking about options and failure

We spend a lot of time in sport seeking optimal performance. We tend to be very optimistic about the processes that contribute to this optimisation outcome and are delighted when it occurs.

One of the aptitudes we require is the ability to differentiate the choices of interventions and treatments we share with our support team colleagues, coaches and performers.

Clare Thorp has written about one aspect of this differentiation, overcoming the fear of better options. She notes:

We have more choice than ever in our daily lives — but while choice is supposed to feel liberating, it can often feel exhausting instead.

Clare discusses, among other issues, decision-making styles used by ‘satisficers’ and ‘maximizers’ (Parker, de Bruin and Fischhoff, 2007). Satisficers choose options that are good enough, maximizers choose an option with the highest expected utility.

In a 2017 paper, Daniel Brannon and Brandon Solwisch focused “on how and why maximizers evaluate an individual product based on a salient characteristic—the number of features that it has”.

The proliferation of feature-rich resources for and in high performance sport raises some important issues for the decisions we make and the advice we give. Daniel and Brandon note:

  • Maximizers evaluate products more favorably than satisficers when they have many features (“feature-rich”), but not when they have few features (“feature-poor”).
  • Maximizers are more likely than satisficers to perceive feature-rich (compared to feature-poor) products as a means of signaling status to others.
  • When maximizers no longer perceive feature-rich products as status signals, they do not evaluate them more favourably than satisficers.

They conclude with a discussion of status-signalling:

while past studies have found that maximizers experience post-decision regret because they look back at what could have been, it is also possible that they are disappointed when their purchase does not end up providing them with the positive social comparisons that they had originally hoped for …

It is sometimes very hard not to be part of an innovation momentum. Clare’s post and the literature are helpful stimuli to encourage us to think about how we personally come to make recommendations about innovation and adoption.

I think it is helpful to think about failure in this context too. Enter Sarah Milstein.

Earlier this year, Sarah wrote about How to Fail When You’re Used to Winning. She introduced her post with:

Innovation is a buzzword for our era. It evokes the promise of profiting tomorrow from today’s changes in technology. The word innovation implies a clean, crisp path. That’s a lie. In fact, innovation requires enormous amounts of failure — which then presents leadership challenges.

Sarah points out that “any team that must experiment constantly will fail a lot, and repeated failure almost always depresses people” (original emphases).

She adds:

when your team equates project failure with defeat, many will intuitively address the problem by narrowing the scope of new projects, in order to make them more likely to succeed.

She questions whether this approach is appropriate for entrepreneurial environments. I have always seen high performance sport as an entrepreneurial space and I found Sarah’s ideas resonating with the decision-making literature discussed earlier.

Sarah suggests the following framework for a team to reflect on direction:

  • Develop a written vision and mission statement and refer to them often.
  • Make failure an opportunity for learning rather than for blame.
  • Ask colleagues to share the lessons they have learned from failure.
  • Set a regular time when teams can raise a challenge they’re facing, and individuals can step up to offer relevant expertise or knowledge.
  • Use a spreadsheet, database or repository to track notes, code, and other assets from failed projects that can be reused in future projects.
  • Publicly celebrate incremental progress.
  • Model the behaviours you want.

Sarah concludes:

Your path to succeeding at failure and maintaining morale will not be linear. You’ll stumble along the way and find yourself wanting to pretend you didn’t just trip. But stick with it. Teams that can maintain good spirits during hard times tend to win, and nothing feeds morale like success.

Edwin Thoen has something to share about dealing with failed projects too, particularly involving data:

The probability that you have worked on a data science project that failed, approaches one very quickly as the number of projects done grows.

He suggests:

  • Make failing an option from the start.
  • Plan realistically and include slack for messiness.
  • Keep stakeholders in the loop.
  • Write a final report.

As Dewi Koning indicates finding positives in failure amplifies shared learning.

For much of my professional life I have been drawn to ‘good enough’ approaches. The more I have been involved in high performance sport, the more I have wanted to discuss fallibility in our pursuit of a dynamic performance optimisation. And to own failure as well as success.

I do believe that transparency about innovation decisions and their outcomes is immensely helpful as we all negotiate that very fine line between leading and bleeding edges.

Photo Credit

Milky Way Galaxy seen from mountain range (Stephen Coetsee on Unsplash)

A Fra Mauro kind of week

Fra Mauro was a cartographer. He lived in the Republic of Venice in the fifteenth century.

I found out about him in James Cowan’s (1997) A Mapmaker’s Dream. In that account, Fra Mauro welcomed visitors from all over the world in his monastery and used their news to develop his map of the world.

I loved the idea that he could be in Venice and yet be connected with voyages of discovery and established trade routes.

I had a Fra Mauro feeling this week in rural New South Wales. Social media, particularly Twitter, brought me news of adventures elsewhere.

Jacquie Tran was on her way to a Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand conference:

Javier Fernandez was at a conference:

Mark Upton was writing about returning ‘home’ in South Australia after all his travels. In his discussion of living in fellowship he wrote “We DO need to balance and share power by exploring the dynamic interaction of leadership and followship” (original emphasis).

By serendipity, I met Jo Gibson, who lives just 50 kms away. Jo is researching leadership and followership in the dynamic way that Mark advocates. I have the good fortune to be her PhD supervisor.

I ended my week, delighted in reading a quote from Albert Mundet far away in Spain: “We compete in the short term, but we may cooperate at longer term”.

From a Fra Mauro perspective, this sharing is immensely powerful.

For many years, I have hoped that open sharing is the new competitive edge and that through sharing we transform sport in the ways that about which Mark Upton and his colleagues write so eloquently and has been demonstrated so well in New Zealand and Spain this week.

Photo Credit

Venezia (Roberto Defilipi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)