Artificial Experience (AE) and Performance Enhancement

William James change your life
Early in my sales career, I came upon a quote attributed to William James, the Father of American Psychology. The message was profound. “The mind cannot tell the difference between something that is real and something that is vividly imagined.” These words were mind blowing and changed my life. They were simple, crystal clear and sensible. I instantly recalled a dream that I had in childhood. I dreamed that I came upon a large mound of coins. I took a handful of coins and clinched them tightly in my hand. I wanted this to be true. I awakened with my fist clenched, my heart pounding and filled with anticipation. However, as I slowly opened my fingers, the disappointment was obvious. It was only a dream. A very vivid dream, but still a dream.

I became so fond of this technique, which was all around me, but I never noticed. It seemed sophisticated and more structured then daydreaming. Additionally, it was consistent with visualization and mental rehearsal. These were techniques used by athletes and performers to prepare themselves for competitions, performances, presentations and other events.

My usage initially was preparing for sales calls. This was very evident in my initial sales training in pharmaceutical sales. The six new sales representatives were preparing for videotaped presentations with our sales trainers. The tension level was very high in the room, as five employees were rushing to make practice presentations before presenting to the trainers. I was in the hallway visualizing my upcoming scenarios and preparing my responses. I realized that I could mentally role play more presentations than I could physically demonstrate, therefore I was structuring my thinking. This would allow me to create artificial experience and have déjà vu moments within each sales presentation. My confidence was elevated, and I performed better than I would have otherwise. I was not as nervous as my peers and felt more comfortable through my means of gathering artificial experience. I explained my method to my peers, and everyone implemented this technique, which I feel was helpful in completing our sales training, especially the videotape portions.

The practice of cultivating artificial experience allows us to simulate many situations and improve our performance in our current reality. We also can accelerate the pace of learning through many scenarios to increase our ability to think on our feet.

Airline pilots go to through many hours of flight simulation training to expose them to a variety of scenarios which may occur in flight. The objective is to create the type of muscle memory or response memory, so that when they are in actual situations, they can draw on this artificial experience to perform effectively.

Many people new to their assignments feel apprehensive because they do not have the same level experience as their peers. New managers may be in situations where they are managing teams where individuals have been with the company longer. Millennials may be managing baby boomers. Managers may be managing a very diverse team. It is a reality that artificial experience, along with coaching, mentoring and researching the past can contribute to elevating competence and confidence.

Artificial experience along with other leadership techniques, such as emotional and cultural intelligence can assist in individual and team performance and personal development.

Copyright © 2019 Orlando Ceaser

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