Hitting a 100 mph fastball and fielding a curveball question from a customer, colleague or boss are both problems to be solved. According to Doug Lemov and his book titled The Coach’s Guide to Teaching, super-human athletes or musicians aren’t as physically super as we think. His research shows their exceptional skill is not the entire story. Nope, they also know exactly what to look for.
It takes the brain about six-tenths of a second to have a conscious thought. But in athletics, that can actually be too long to make a decision. Funny huh? In baseball for instance, a 100 mph pitch arrives at home plate in four-tenths of a second. That’s faster than a batter can have a conscious thought, so how in the world does that work?
When studying these elite athletes across multiple sports, they noticed their eyes tuned into certain things amateurs didn’t. They were looking for specific things, visual cues, that informed their decision before action had to be taken. For example, at the prime of his career, Albert Pujols was found to have a below average reaction time for an average adult male. However, his ability to read the angle of the pitchers arm, the position of their wrist and the rate of their hip rotation was exceptional. They saw a similar phenomenon when studying a master pianist and his protege. The student’s eyes were darting around the music sheet and down to their fingers at a rapid pace. Whereas the master’s eyes tuned into far less because he knew what to look for and when to look for it.
Want better problem solvers on your team? Apply the same practice in your place of work. Stop telling your team how to hit the curveballs thrown their way and start asking them to tell you what they saw coming. You’ll most likely learn they are just like the novice piano player and looking at all the wrong things. Spend more time teaching them them to see better and tune into the things that matter most and see if this might just help you solve your problem.