Thursday, February 26, 2009

From Education to Training: Developing the Success of Traders

The recent post on coaching traders as a supervisory process suggested that learning to read and respond to markets might be similar to the process that psychologists undergo when they learn how to read and respond to people in counseling. Readers of my book on trader performance will recognize that this is a process in which novices first learn to develop competence and later cultivate specialties and expertise.

It is significant that the training process in psychiatry is a four year sequence, not including any fellowships or sub-specialty training. Similarly, those with a Ph.D . in psychology typically train for four years after college, followed by a fifth year of full-time supervised internship.

The progression of the years takes the form of "see one, do one, teach one." Beginning students of psychology and psychiatry take courses and observe others doing therapy. Their initial attempts at working with others are conducted in courses through role play, minimizing the risks of making mistkes. Only in later training do student-therapists see their own clients in training clinics, under close supervision. Still later, they help to supervise beginners, sharing their competence and growing expertise with more junior peers.

No one in the mental health field would suggest that teaching, supervision, and the development of competence (much less expertise) could take place in a matter of days or weeks. We know from studies of expertise development--from sports to chess--that the cultivation of expertise typically takes years. It is no coincidence that Olympic contenders--themselves superior athletes--continue to receive coaching and mentoring years after they developed competence in their work.

Education--in trading as in other fields--is valuable, but it is different from coordinated curricula of training. Isolated seminars, workshops, and learning experiences cannot substitute for the "crawl, walk, run" training that moves students from "see one" to "do one" to "teach one".

We commonly hear that 80% or more traders fail at their pursuit. Might that be because they lack the training structures typically available to athletes, professional soldiers, and performing artists? Yet how could such training be offered in a way that is affordable and logistically feasible? I will be addressing these significant challenges in my next post in this series.