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The EDGE Method Step Two: Demonstrate

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." — Confucius

Now that we’ve fully explored what it means to educate someone, it’s time to dive into what it means to truly demonstrate something for your team members. Think back to when you learned how to drive—even before you started, you were drawing on a lifetime of demonstration. In your driver’s ed class, you received even more demonstration as the instructor drove you around a bit, explaining (educating) what was going on. They also showed you videos of people driving, and in some cases allowed you to use a driving simulator to experience the process before actually doing it.

Explanations and manuals are wonderful tools, and vital for creating a foundation of education, but nothing beats watching someone do something that you’re trying to learn. Baking is another great example. Maybe you grew up watching your parents or grandparents cook. At some point they likely gave you direct demonstrations of what they were doing and why, while going through the recipe with you.

This same principle applies to literally every new skill we acquire as adults—whether it's learning to bake, program software, perform job tasks, you name it. We are blessed to live in the age of video, where so much can be demonstrated for us before we ever attempt it ourselves. YouTube alone is an endless library of demonstrations.

Humans have an innate ability to learn through observation and imitation. It's how children pick up language, how ancient skills were passed down through generations before the written word. We are tactile beings, and few senses provide that "aha!" moment like visualizing the application of what we are trying to learn.

That step of walking in someone else’s footsteps, of seeing expertise first-hand, is irreplaceable. It lays the neurological pathway for your own hands to replicate what you've witnessed. After the educating and explaining,  demonstration is what allows the learning to truly take root.

The key is, the person demonstrating has already learned what NOT to do, which is as important as what TO do. When demonstrating, we’re taking the compound lessons that we’ve learned ourselves combined with what others demonstrated for us. That compound experience helps us fail less often by learning how to do it the right way.

Activities that require high discipline, like martial arts, are great examples of demonstrating, practicing, and building muscle memory. In the wise words of Vince Lombardi, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” Muscle memory is important because when we have to use a skill in an urgent or critical situation, we can do it effortlessly, it’s already ingrained into who we are. That’s the whole purpose behind demonstrating, which leads into guiding. It really begins with a person being able to see, capture, and retain what has been demonstrated so that they can go do it.

One of my business partners says we’re standing on the shoulders of others, that the rate of change that we see is evidence of that. Raymond Kurzweil published an essay in 2001 titled, “The Law of Accelerating Returns” where he explains how growth and knowledge are exponential; the example he gives is that due to previous gains in knowledge, we won’t gain 100 years of progress in the 21st century, it will be more like 20,000 years of progress compared to the past.

Each time there’s been an invention or discovery—for example the telegraph led to the telephone, the horse-drawn carriage led to the car, then we invented the airplane—these things propel our ability to do something faster. That’s evidence of the compound learning over time. Whoever invented the wheel thousands of years ago started the process of compounding, and think of everything that’s been built upon that one invention.

Think about the sheer number of “how to” videos on YouTube and their wild popularity—that is one of the best modern examples we see of the importance of demonstration. Pew research says that over half the people who view YouTube do so to learn. ThinkWithGoogle says there are 500 million views of their how-to and educational videos every day. Education is the foundation, but it’s difficult to move beyond that without good demonstration. Then you’re ready to try it yourself, with a guide!

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