What is Human Performance?

Performing well of course!

It is what it says on the tin, Human Performance.

Now if we were to be satisfied with that answer, this would make for a very short blog article indeed!

Human Performance: What Is It and Why Should We Study It?

However; unsurprisingly I would like to delve deeper to understand the fundamental concept of Human Performance Science, and its physiological roots, and its human science heritage in sport and exercise science…
Surrounded are we with tales of survival in extreme conditions, we have become accustomed to Human Performance being considered a physical accomplishment.

Perhaps you too have watched in awe at Bear Grylls wild-encounters, wincing at some of his more questionable self-survival techniques, or maybe you have felt the frostbite just reading Ben Fogel’s arctic adventures? If so you will agree these are undoubtedly examples of exceptional human effort.

Similarly; the feats of our Olympians and Paralympians, from the 1954 four-minute mile achievement of Roger Bannister to the present-day success of Dina Asher-Smith the fastest British woman in recorded history. These extraordinary sporting feats, reinforce the long association between sport and exercise and human performance optimization.

As humans we are influenced in our performance by those around us, and we can learn good habits from the best, yet Human Performance is personal, and in the corporate sense, it is not a competitive measure.

Research has proven that 80% of human errors happen as a result of latent failings and errors in our organisations (INPO database 2008). (oakridgecentre.co.uk)

Human Performance is concerned with individual and team performance and I for one will not be following Bear’s Grylls pee drinking advice!

If we were to define Human Performance we might define it as the ability to perform consistently at our best in the environment within which we are operating at that moment’.

We have provided some examples of physical achievements that test the limits of physical performance; however, underpinning those physical performances is a psychological performance without which some of those performances may not have been possible. As we look at all achievements, whether Olympian or survival, the performance is also supported by a team that may be there before, during or after. A great example of this is the moon landing – the size of team that had to operate together to ultimately put 2 humans on the moon is tremendous – each part of the team had to function well for this feat to happen.

This thinking then supports our definition of Human Performance where we consider the principles of Human performance to be around the person, the team performance within which a person operates and the interactions with other teams.

There is some synergy here between Human Factors and Human Performance, which are terms we sometimes observe and have used ourselves almost symbiotically. As we consider Human Factors from a human error lens both the non-technical and technical skills can be considered interferences, see below, that inhibit our ability to perform. Whether your lens is Human Factor or Human Performance optimization hopefully this blog speaks to both lenses simultaneously where we create a Human Performance Improvement.

How might we do this?

1 – Understand what creates the best possible performance in your space

A way of skinning the proverbial cat is to understand what creates the best possible performance in your space. There is always a difference between the ultimate performance and reality – most athletes never perform to their full potential, the ones that get closest to it gain the most success. We want to minimize this ‘interference’ that prevents us from reaching our potential allowing people to operate as close to their potential as possible as often as possible. We could call these interferences performance pressures and could range from anything in an individual’s life. Some might look at this as ‘Human Performance Science’ and yes we use a lot of science but we also use a lot of what works, the ‘stuff’ that makes a difference that creates long term change and development.

2 – Understand and define what performance means to you

Organisations that do well understand and define what performance means to them and how they create an environment that minimizes the interferences. Our experiences show that these environments become more engaging and productive workplaces.

What Next?

This last year (2020) has been tough, not only on the NHS, but in all workplaces, and in the same way, athletes need to restore depleted resources after competitive activity, our workplaces also need to self-regulate, so that they can move forward productively, and be ready for future challenges.

To reflect back to a sports concept competition is a regular and planned event. One day you may lose but need to compete again in just a couple of days. Whilst physically the downtime will allow your body to recover, is there enough time to regulate those negative thoughts associated with loss, frustration, the disappointment, to allow for optimal performance?

In all situations whether corporate or competitive we need to give ourselves time to self-regulate. The Pro-Noctis Human Performance Practitioner Course can assist you on this journey.

Pro-Noctis is an award-winning Human Performance specialist company, and we have worked with over 14 different NHS trusts [See Latest Human Performace Case Study Here], for over 7 years, delivering our Human Performance Practitioner Course.

The practitioner course is not only for the NHS, it is suitable for any organisation with a growth mindset, it helps organisations to develop winning mindsets and addresses the barriers to elite performance. To find out more please click here

Only through identifying the current state of a workplace, and the desired goals, can we undertake actions to improve wellbeing and boost efficiency.

We must destress and process what has happened this past year, we must re-energise, and reflect, as individuals and as teams, and most importantly we must self-regulate, as this is the foundation for improved wellbeing and performance.

Much like an adventurer, we can only move forward once both physical and mental resources are replenished individually and as a team.


To learn more about our range of ILM accredited coaching & mentoring courses click here or if you’re an athlete or organisation looking to enhance your human performance contact us