Immediately Applied Theory for Enhanced Performance

Peter Drucker stressed application, rather than theory . . . again and again. Frequently he concluded his seminars with something like this: "Don’t tell me what a wonderful seminar I gave or how much you enjoyed it. Tell me what you are going to do differently Monday morning. He may have derived the general idea of the importance of application from the ancient Chinese sage, Confucius, who explained the dichotomy between theory and application as follows: "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." Doing, of course, means application. And according to both Confucius and Drucker, understanding is required for both enhanced performance and ultimate mastery of anything.

Much of my own thinking either originated with Drucker, or came about as a result of his documentation of one or more of his concepts which confirmed what I had previously thought. Such is the case with Immediately Applied Theory for Enhanced Performance or IATEP (pronounced IA- TEP) as I call it.

This all began with my own struggles to achieve success, or rather, survival, and believe me these struggles were monumental. Although in some areas I achieved a modicum of success, in other areas I was clueless and the results I attained prove it. For example, I overcame enormous handicaps, including recurrent rheumatic fever to achieve an appointment as a cadet to the United States Military Academy at West Point. This was the start of a terrific four year battle to remain there and to graduate, which I eventually won, but barely. As an example of how bitter this fight was, my first year I had "achieved" one of the lowest grade point averages in mathematics since George Armstrong Custer had graduated in the class of June of 1861. So much was I lacking in success, that when I returned during my 35th reunion as one of the 7% in my class fortunate enough to have attained the military rank of general, studied and received a PhD from the Drucker’sSchool in Claremont, California, and become a book author, many of my classmates were dumbfounded. What had I been doing differently? The answer was both IATEP (which I had started developing as a cadet), and of course, Peter Drucker.

What is IATEP?

IATEP is an advanced learning model whereby performance is enhanced through immediate hands-on application of theory to current job issues, problems, projects, and decision making to increase both efficiency and effectiveness of output while simultaneously embedding new skills to enable high levels of performance in similar tasks on a permanent basis. It emphasizes learning by doing rather than learning through lecture or textbook as primary, rather than supporting elements in the actual application of knowledge. I had begun experimenting and using IATEP as an undergraduate and continued through both my military and my academic career.
In the meantime, Confucius’ declaration has been confirmed by forty years of various experiments conducted by Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University. She found that true mastery was possible only by doing, because she confirmed that only it led to a true understanding of the subject matter. She compared learning through doing and book and lecture learning as emphasized at most universities. So long as the outcomes of study of identical material disseminated by lecture or textbook were compared with concepts taught through the same material through practical experience, she found little difference in outcome. But when the problem situations were altered, the difference was significant in favor of learning by doing. Dweck concluded that the two different outcomes were like getting an "A" on a French exam, and actually being able to speak French. Moreover, that true mastery was only obtainable through learning through application.

Developing IATEP

To give credit where credit is due, I developed the concept based on teaching and learning concepts originating from concepts that I observed and optimized from many schools that I attended, and as a professor in the classroom at various universities with research involving more than 3000 students and student teams in four countries. Most recently, it has been applied to the California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM), a graduate school offering a unique MBA at which I co-founded and of which I have the honor to be president. It represents the pinnacle of what I have learned.

The Six Step IATEP Model

You can use IATEP as I did initially for personal enhancement, or as I do presently to help others enhance their performance. The IATEP model always involves six steps:
  1. Motivation for Learning the Theory
  2. Introduction and Explanation of the Theory with Application Examples
  3. Immediate Application by Students through Experiential Learning, or Mental Exercise
  4. Responsibility for a Significant Applied Project Involving the Theory
  5. Feedback during Performance
  6. Overall Corrections and Encouragement

Let’s take a look at how these six steps are followed

Marketing Planning and the Formal Marketing Plan

Marketing planning was introduced as a unified conceptual theory after World War II in which structured planning was applied to marketing issues as it became recognized that the mere fact of preparing the plan was useful, maybe even more so than the plan itself, since events frequently required altering a plan in application. This motivated General Eisenhower, who oversaw the planning of the largest invasion in the history of warfare during World War II to exclaim: "Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
Journal articles written in the early 1970s questioned why the theory of marketing planning, introduced more than 25 years earlier, was so slow in being adopted by organizations. One explanation was that while the theory was taught and thoroughly explored with possible examples, graduate students were normally not required to produce a real marketing plan. This carried over into the real world. While practitioners knew what a marketing plan was and what it was supposed to do, few marketers produced one simply because they had never done so previously. Only slowly as more and more marketers ventured out and developed a marketing plan themselves, did this concept become institutionalized. As time went on, even if a student had not done one previously, he would be introduced to the process of marketing planning on the job. So, eventually marketing planning did catch on. Unfortunately, this process took about twenty five years.

IATEP allows this process to be integrated and mastered much more rapidly so that even newly graduated students can not only participate fully in marketing planning, but can prepare and professionally present one immediately, and accomplish this by themselves if necessary.

Example of Market Planning Application in the Classroom

In one of my early classes in academia, a student applied IATEP in a graduate class which I taught at the University of Southern California. The class required an actual marketing plan as part of the course. Shortly after the course ended, one of my students, Harriet Cellini, was forced to drop out of the MBA program due to lack of funds. She succeeded in getting a job with Cole of California, a major swimwear company by using a marketing plan applied to a totally different arena: job finding. She was able to do this, because as Confucius had noted several thousand years earlier, "she understood."
Shortly afterwards, a situation came up in her new company that required a direct marketing plan to sell swimwear. No one at Cole of California had developed a direct marketing plan previously as the product had never been sold through this medium. No one in the company wanted the responsibility for developing this marketing plan and the company contemplated hiring an outside consultant.

Before a consultant could be hired, Harriet volunteered for this task which more experienced employees had shunned. She was given the responsibility for developing a marketing plan to sell swimwear using direct marketing techniques. Others told her that her volunteering was a big mistake and would expose her ignorance and lack of experience. However, she completed the plan successfully, and with only minor changes, it was approved. Moreover, though the youngest and most recently hired employee, she was asked to head a small team on a temporary basis to implement the plan. She claimed that she made many mistakes, but she was successful and less than eight months later she was appointed Director of Advertising for Cole of California even though much younger than her colleagues. Harriet’s salary was elevated significantly, and three years later she quit her job to return to get her MBA at the Anderson School at UCLA. On graduation in 1984, she received one of the highest starting salaries in the country going with a top management consulting firm by using a marketing plan once again to lay out her job campaign.

Now, this short article is not about developing marketing plans. But it does demonstrate the value of IATEP and the rapidity with which one can master a subject area or topic by the simple act of immediate application.