Unguided Practice

By Mark Nuyens
3 min. read🔍 Analysis

Learning new skills and achieving our goals often begins with seeking guidance from others who have already succeeded. We look for instructions, follow tutorials, or attend classes to gain knowledge. But what if we chose to explore and experiment without guidance? Could unguided practice lead us to new, innovative solutions and a deeper understanding? I believe this concept could potentially improve the way we learn and approach challenges.

Unguided practice, as the name suggests, involves the learner attempting tasks without any predetermined set of instructions. This method encourages the learner to use their intuition and creativity to solve problems. This may even lead to behaviors that may appear unusual to others, as exemplified by a young Tony Hawk who was perceived as "cheating" by his peers because he ingeniously discovered a more efficient method to propel himself off the ground using his skateboard. Similarly, some people learn to succeed in a particular sport without formal training, simply by gaining experience and adapting their techniques through trial and error, allowing them to focus only on the things that make them better.

You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. - Richard Branson

Put simply, while guided practice offers the advantage of speed and efficiency in the short term, it may limit the scope for exploration and experiential quality in the long run. When we follow a prescribed path, we confine ourselves to a particular way of thinking and reduce our margin for error. This could inadvertently stifle creativity and discourage independent thinking. Individuals who ultimately create something truly unique and impactful often walk a fine line between following established solutions and trusting their instincts. This approach is inherently risky, as it involves the possibility of failure or wasted effort. However, when the stakes are low, this “risk” might be worth taking. After all, if the unguided path doesn't yield the desired results, there's always the option to return to conventional wisdom.

In conclusion, embracing the idea of unguided practice can lead to a more versatile and thorough understanding of a subject or skill. Although perhaps not suitable for every situation, it may still hold the promise of fostering innovation and creating a broader range of solutions to challenges. By allowing ourselves to explore without judgment or immediate evaluation, we open the door to new possibilities and a richer learning experience. Encouraging unguided practice from a young age, through education and parenting, has the potential to foster a generation of innovative thinkers. While there are short-term drawbacks, such as time and resource investments, I believe the long-term benefits of cultivating creativity and a willingness to explore shouldn't be ignored.