Tuesday, January 18, 2022

g-f(2)828 THE BIG PICTURE OF THE DIGITAL AGE (1/18/2022), HBR, When Lower Intensity Leads to Higher Results

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"g-f" fishing of golden knowledge (GK) of the fabulous treasure of the digital ageThe New World, When Lower Intensity Leads to Higher Results (1/18/2022)  g-f(2)426 

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Will a polarized routine of low-high intensity lead to better outcomes than working at medium intensity most of the time?

  • Scientists studying human endurance have found that the polarized, low-high training approach maximizes race performance while reducing the risk of serious injury. Many world-class runners, cyclists, skiers, and triathletes train in this manner. And the concept is also making its way into everyday culture, as highlighted by popular books on endurance sports and articles on “high intensity interval training,” or HIIT.
  • This article offers examples from investing, sales, R&D, and M&A to ask the question: Will a polarized routine of low-high intensity lead to better outcomes than working at medium intensity most of the time?

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Harsha V. Misra

Harsha V. Misra is the founder of a value-oriented investment firm. He has degrees in math from Cambridge University and business from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and has previously worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Co.

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  • Joining a running club gave me the opportunity to run alongside and closely observe how they train. I was very surprised by what I learned.
  • I am a value-oriented investor. I am also a recreational marathon runner. When my wife recently gifted me a membership to a running club, I found an unexpected connection between these two worlds. This connection has made me rethink not only my approach to marathon running, but also my understanding of business management. 
  • Many competitive runners spend around 80% of their training time at low intensity. They are deliberately holding back, systematically building a base of miles at a pace so easy that it looks like they are not doing very much at all. The rest of their training time — the other 20% — is mostly spent at high intensity. These are extremely focused, hard workouts with superhuman bursts of speed and power.
  • What about medium intensity training? The competitive group spends almost no time doing this. They consider it a waste of energy. I’ve heard endurance experts describe it this way: “Too much pain for too little gain.”

How "normal people" can train like the worlds best endurance athletes | Stephen Seiler | TEDxArendal

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Three examples   

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  • This polarized endurance training approach immediately made me think of Warren Buffett, the famed value investor. Buffett talks about his approach to investment work as being “lethargy bordering on sloth.” He spends most of his time reading annual reports, browsing business publications, and speaking with colleagues and contacts. He’s deliberately building a base of investment knowledge — which can look like not doing very much at all. But then he occasionally acts with extreme vigor, making massive investment bets on a handful of rare occasions. In contrast to Buffett’s approach, research shows that recreational investors tend to always be “doing something” — constantly dabbling in markets via a steady stream of “medium” drip-and-drop trades.
    • Who wins in the end? I think you already know.
  • The more I think of the above, the more I’m convinced that a similar idea also applies to a wider range of managerial work. Here are three examples of other fields in which the approach seems to fit:
    1. In certain sales settings, where the sales cycle is long and the potential prize is large, seasoned salespeople tend to deliberately stay in a low-intensity relationship-building mode for long periods. 
    2. In strategic mergers and acquisitions, teams with the best track records tend to be the ones that say “nothing to report” in most leadership team meetings. Colleagues may wonder: “Why do we even have these low-energy people sitting around?” In fact, they are spending time deliberately monitoring, learning, and tracking — the running equivalent of building base mileage. 
    3. Similarly, in certain research and development settings, where the gains from success are life-changing but the cost of failure can be “game over,” one also sees evidence of polarized effort. These teams spend lots of time on inexpensive experimentation, learning and tinkering. When the time is ripe, they are able to shift to a massive, operational-execution sprint. Again, this high-intensity push wouldn’t be possible if not for the endurance capability created by the many hours of lower-intensity effort.

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