Working outside the ‘Bubble of Expertise’

February 15, 2011 Post Comment Uncategorised

Last weekend I coached 3 young district level cricketers for an hour each, and it was my first coaching at this level for the best part of two years. I have to say it was a real pleasure, both in terms of our interaction and their outcomes. Also I’m hoping that they’d gained enough ideas for change to stimulate and motivate them to taking their (batting) game onto the next level.

I approached them as clients, rather than coachees or (even worse) schoolboys, and looked to establish an atmosphere where they could express themselves. Although I knew all three, only one of them do I coach privately – and he is well versed in my ‘atmosphere’ of practice and experiment! The others (both aged 13) took a short while to become accustomed to the kind of freedom afforded to them, because essentially they are usually accustomed to being coached from a different perspective.

I spoke to one of them in particular about how learning something you like is not a chore but rather a pleasure – the very reason being that you like doing it. “Think of school,” I said, “and the lessons in subjects you like. You look forward to them, you relax, pay more attention, and the whole learning thing has momentum before the lesson even starts.”

The key action next is to capitalise upon this positive state and allow them to open up to all the possibilites afforded by what they are experiencing in practice. These possibilities exist outside the box (or bubble) of current expertise. Now, they could perhaps just want to ‘groove’ their current expertise – but that’s not a learning experience, it is more of a conditioning exercise. And I wanted to engage them in learning (discovering) more about the breadth and limit of their capabilities by getting outside the bubble!

Interestingly, this bubble (or box) of current expertise is also the domain of the perfectionists and “finite-masters”. These are the ones who are habitually prone to beating themselves up because they are trying to match what they’re doing to their pre-conceived (and often perfect) model of their capabilities.
“I want to perfect what I’m good at, and THEN I can move on!”
Mmmm – so much for learning as you go; plus it makes for a stop-start-stop type of learning curve!

Sometimes I talk to players about the box or bubble and what happens when they’re inside or outside it – and there’s a great question I use for bursting the bubble or the finite-masters or perfectionists.
“Consider this – how did you get to be as good as you are already? There was some point – back in your past – when you weren’t as good as you are now. So in order for you to have become as good as you are you must have allowed yourself to become better than you were.”

So, once outside the expertise bubble the chance for learning is down to experimenting, experiencing, finding out what works and what doesn’t, noticing what’s happening on a sensual level and on using outcomes only as a means for collating results of the experiments. A kind of advanced TOTE Model if you like.

By the end of each of their sessions all these three lads had trodden some new ground. It was challenging going to these new places – but they were invigorated and enthused by realising that, through experience and experiment, when they came back to their ‘bubble of expertise’ it was now bigger!

Little wonder these guys are already much better than they were a year ago – and they are still capable of far, far more than they think they are. The difference is that now they have an inkling that for every new “Now” moment they experience they discover even more about their capabilities and, more especially, about themselves!