I am a fairly keen cyclist (a MAMIL – middle aged man in lycra). Like many cyclists I use www.strava.com to record my rides. Strava has rather taken over that world and provides you with a massive amount of data after your ride. Essentially it gives you feedback on the ride you did.
As well as telling you general stuff like the average speed for the ride and how long you rode for, it will take sections of the ride (segments) and tell you how fast you rode it, how that compares to other times you rode that segment, and how it compares to others (everyone and your friends) performance on the same segment.
Anyone who uses Strava will tell you that this feedback can become obsessive. And it certainly motivates you at times to ride harder than you otherwise would have done. I’ll leave the question of whether it makes the ride more enjoyable for another time.
What really interests me is that sometimes the feedback Strava gives isn’t helpful at all. Sometimes you under-perform against your peers or your own previous efforts and sometimes you over-perform without any relation to the effort that you made. The issue is that Strava doesn’t have anything to tell you the context for your ride. At a simple level it doesn’t tell you
- What the wind was like, for you or the others
- Whether you were riding in a group or alone
- Whether this was your focus for the ride
If you were a coach discussing the data from Strava with a rider then, before you leapt in to give your opinion, you would need to get this context. You may need to ensure the rider wasn’t overly critical of themselves, or you may need to ensure they weren’t complacent with a seemingly good performance. You would need to listen to how the rider felt during the ride, what they were looking to achieve, any obstacles they hit along the road. Only when this was complete would a real assessment be complete and some goals or targets for the future be based on useful feedback.
We receive a lot of data now. Our appraisal processes and feedback systems are full of feedback. But context is everything. And the person who knows the context best is the person themselves – although they may need a coach or trusted person to help them look at the data objectively.