Performance Doesn't Equal Learning, Growth Doesn't Equal Good Business


In the following 5 minute video, you’ll hear Bob Bjork (Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles) talk about learning.

He stresses the importance of two different concepts that are often mixed up.

Learning on the one hand and performance on the other.

Our current educational system focusses exclusively on performance.*

In Europe, it’s a little less extreme than in Asia or The US but the test-based, educational systems used around the world don’t differ that much.

The problem is that while performance might correlate loosely with learning, the correlation coefficient is by no means 1.

The result of this is that we tend to optimize processes that result in better performance that might not help learning or worse, might negatively affect learning.

I suggest you watch the video below.

In business, we do the exact same thing.

On the one hand, we have growth on the other we have good business.

Growth can be a proxy for a good business (after all, if you get more revenue or if you get more users, it seems like you must be doing something right).

But there are many situations where companies had strong growth and went bankrupt (high paid acquisition with high churn) or where there’s strong growth but the business is unethical (Petrol companies using lead to boost profits) and so on.

We talked about this massive fiasco in Do You Have Customers Who Deeply Love You? Final Part. Here’s an excerpt from that essay:

‘‘America’s leading corporations–General Motors, Du Pont and Standard Oil of New Jersey (known nowadays as Exxon)–were that somebody. They got together and put lead, a known poison, into gasoline, for profit.’’

-The Secret History Of Lead’’

Today’s essay is fundamentally about Goodhart’s Law.

‘’When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.’’

Whenever we’re using a proxy to measure something, we have to be vigilant about not forgetting that the proxy is not the thing we’re looking to optimize. 

*If you’re interested in the history of how our current educational system took shape, you can watch this (8 minutes):

RJ Youngling