An introduction to deliberate practice.
Late in 2008, while reading Tim Walker’s website, I heard about the idea of deliberate practice. Many people have been writing about it and talking about it recently. One of them, Geoff Colvin identifies several elements of deliberate practice:
[Deliberate practice] is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, page 66.
To give a bit more context, the research into deliberate practice grows out of research into what separates world-class performers from normal people. The historic explanation was talent or giftedness. The new explanation, supported by research, seems to be that world-class performers spend a bunch of time on the kind of work described above. And by a bunch of time, I mean 10,000 hours. I mean about 10 years.
Ten years of working piece by piece with good coaching and consistent feedback on the complex skills that make up golf or music performance or chess or maybe, other things as well.
This page is a link to most of my writing about DP.
=>Deliberate Practice – my first real overview (and a Chris Brogan example)
=>Outliers and talent and hope and deliberate practice – A review of two recent, popular books on deliberate practice.
- Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
- Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
I’m glad for both of these books. I was afraid that they were redundant. Having read both, it’s clear that they overlap in concept but differ completely in application.
To be delighted in how a story is told, read Outliers. Gladwell will give you stories to tell to friends (as happened twice today)
To change how you live however, to identify the weakest parts of what you are best at and to improve them, Colvin will challenge and teach you.
=>Writing lessons – a fifty word post on what I’ve learned from writing online. It summarizes deliberate practice.
=>I get up at 6 – an illustration of the difference between practice and deliberate practice
=>The late Jon Swanson – reviewing why I let myself be late to events.
=>Which weaknesses? – looking at the weakest part of our strengths
=>Time enough to change – my first look at DP.
I started thinking this weekend about what I want to be able to do well in 10 years. What do I want to be known for? What do I want to understand then–about myself, about God, about how to live one for the other–that I need to start considering now?
Many of us are looking at the past year, thinking about what we didn’t get done. We are looking at the next year and trying to plan what to do. I’m wondering whether I need to think smaller and larger.
How can I use today’s seconds to be who I want to be in a decade?
On one hand, I said, there times that we finish an event, a task, a project, and we say, “I should have done better. I could have done that differently. That wasn’t very good.” If we are unable to identify exactly what we could have done better, we probably are talking out of guilt or false modesty.
On the other hand, I said, there are times that we finish and we say, “This is what I can do better or differently the next time.” When that happens, we are on our way to actually improving our effectiveness
=>Thoughtful looking back – a Sunday evening review.
=>Time to learn again – an exploration of learning to shoot baskets.
=>Get a little help – On how a writing coach can help.
Deliberate practice in different settings
=>8 ways voice recitals teach writing – Some of the lessons are clearly about intentional choices, about coaching, about learning.
=>slowly, but still learning – an exploration of learning to communication numbers clearly.
=>accumulate or collect – looking at coffee mugs and thinking about how to be intentional about learning about them.
For a link to several articles, see Deliberate Practice in the working world, an omnibus page by Tim Walker.
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