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Praxis Makes Perfect

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

“In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”- Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra was a pro baseball player turned coach and manager. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Not only that, but he is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Yogi became famous for his ‘yogi-isms’- impromptu sayings or unintentional witticisms much like the one at the top of this page.

What Yogi clearly understood was that knowing how to do something (theory) isn’t the same as actually being able to do it (practice). Just because I know how to calculate the baseballs trajectory, doesn’t mean I’ll be able to catch it. #butterfingers

This is because the relationship between knowing and doing is complex, and knowledge does not always lead to its intended action. For example, roughly 46.6 million American adults smoke cigarettes despite the fact that 8.6 million live with a serious illness attributed to smoking (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Perhaps one way to decrease the gap between knowing and doing is to develop praxis.

What is Praxis?

Praxis is the intersection of theory, practice and reflection and stems from the understanding that when theory and reflection are not followed by practice, they are worthless. So too, when action does not stem from knowledge and reflection it is uninformed.

The real missing ingredient in the ‘knowing-doing recipe’ is reflection in action- being able to take new information, reflect upon its relevance and application and then put it into practice in the immediate moment.

At the heart of praxis is the acknowledgement that personal knowledge gained through experience is the key to developing new insight. Through reflecting ‘in action’ as opposed to ‘on action’ we’re better equipped to make sense of information and immediately utilise it to the full advantage in the present, as opposed to thinking about it only after a learning event to apply to a future moment.

10,000 Hours

I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. Made famous by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, this concept has been widely accepted as true….until now.

A 2014 study conducted by Princeton found that deliberate practice explained only:

· 26% of the variance in performance for games

· 21% for music

· 18% for sports

· 4% for education

· and less than 1% for other professions.

Authors concluded that while deliberate practice may help you in fields that change slowly or not at all, such as music and sports or help you succeed when the future looks like the past…it might be next to useless in areas that change rapidly, such as technology and business.

As opposed to the 10,000 hour rule, consider the 10,000 experiment rule. Much like a scientific experiment, this involves generating a hypothesis, testing assumptions and analysing the results. As you go through your day, following the 10,000 experiment rule means constantly looking for opportunities to collect data and adding a deliberate reflection process to make sense of this information.


Key Takeaway

Praxis is the trinity of learning (knowledge, reflection and action) which promotes a deep level of understanding through immediate application and real-life authentic application.

In our fast paced and every changing world it’s no longer sufficient to design online learning programmes that just centre on ‘practice’. We must be fostering experiential and authentic learning experiences that allow for professionals to truly master skill and utilise this in the workplace.

Do you have a knowledge gap you need to address within you organisation? Speak to Praxis about how we can help you with our bespoke learning programmes.

Knowledge | Reflection | Action

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