Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Why Persistent Focused Practice is What it Takes to Be Great

Catching up on some articles and I came across a great one I’d pulled out of Fortune October 30 2006. Called ‘What it Takes to be Great’ by Geoffrey Colvin, it reviewed research to try and answer the question of what it takes: is it talent or hard work.

Great conclusions:

1. Nobody is great without work: there’s no evidence of high level performance without experience or practice

2. The Ten Year Rule: most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before coming world class: this is across most fields – music and literature it’s closer to twenty

3. The best people devote the most hours to ‘deliberate practice’: activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance

4. Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends

5. Great performers include many who showed no special early aptitude (the example is given of Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team)

6. Deliberate practice starts with going at any task with a new goal

7. The mental approach is vital and feedback is crucial

8. You have to do deliberate practice regularly and not sporadically

The really fascinating bit is the conclusion ‘we still do not know which factors encourage individuals to engage in deliberate practice’ or as University of Michigan business school professor puts it after 30 years of working with managers “Some people are much more motivated than others, and that’s the existential question I cannot answer – why”

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One thought on “Why Persistent Focused Practice is What it Takes to Be Great

  1. Pingback: My personal journey along the novice to expert skills continuum | Spaine's Blog

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