Memory: The Enemy of High Performance

Last year, I posited that memory-based learning models simply do not work. A memory-based learning model is one where content is taught in a way that the learner then has to recall the information presented in order to apply the knowledge, invariably at some point in time after the learning event. Memory, of course, has been practically the only source of knowledge at the point of need. For example, when you really need to apply and execute on a task, you rely almost exclusively on your memory. In stress-free and emotionally safe environments and situations, memory works great. So it can’t be all that bad.

However, memory is fallible when stress levels and emotional temperatures of that situation rise. Physiologically speaking, during these times, the amygdala releases hormones in our body that entirely disable or partially disable our cognitive functions, the area of the brain where our memory exists. What I am saying is that our memories are not so much the enemy of learning, but the enemy of high performance.

High performance is performing at high levels most of the time, not just when things are going well. In fact, high performance is often attributed to great work in times of stress. This is a cornerstone of many leadership models as well. So my counsel this week is to take inventory of the tools, knowledge, and resources that you use to perform at a high level. Then, label which ones are in your memory and which you can access from someplace or someone else. Put a caution on the former list and figure out ways that you can access such information during times of stress. Your memory will actually be your enemy is these high stress times and your ability to execute tasks at a high levels of performance is greatly compromised.

Also take into account that the amount of data that we are exposed to, via our experiences and hundreds of channels from which we get and exchange information and use to communicate, is arguably the most of any generation of human beings ever. For busy managers and leaders who are running from one meeting or conference call to another, it is impossible to recollect all this data 24 hours later, much less several days, weeks, or months down the road at some meeting when you really need to recall it. Organization and time management skills aside, memory is still the #1 enemy of your performance.

Photo thanks to Deannster

One response to “Memory: The Enemy of High Performance

  1. Pingback: Memory: The Enemy of High Performance | HRM Today

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