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It shouldn't come as a surprise to me that the topic of deliberate practice continues to find its way into the headlines. As a matter of fact, one of my most-read articles is one questioning Dr. Ericsson’s 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I guess it goes to show that people are always trying to uncover the secret sauce recipe (usually a short-cut) for what ails them or what can propel them to be better than others. The latest headline is one that encompasses some newly found research about how deliberate practice (Ericsson, 1993[i]) does not make perfect. As a matter of fact, in this new research, Hambrick and Oswald say it really is only a small part of what makes one world class or expert at anything.
They looked at games, music, sports, education and the professions to see what role deliberate practice played in becoming an expert. They claim the variance explained by deliberate practice in each of these domains was 26% in games, 21% in music, 18% in sports, 4% for education and 1% for professions. I guess if this were to be true, someone should tell the Olympic hopefuls that all that getting up at 4am to practice before school and late nights in the gym, rink, slopes and a variety of other practice venues is basically a waste of time. While it may be that very few people think that practice makes perfect, I assure you that if you practice the wrong thing, you will certainly get better at the wrong thing. I knew a man whose father was a scratch golfer, meaning that he often shot par for 18 holes.
As a young man when playing with his father, if my friend took a practice swing on the course, his father would send him to the clubhouse. The father’s rationale was that he was only practicing a bad swing. I don’t think his father was a good teacher, but I do know that there is such a thing as bad practice. I know many such examples as I know people who have been practicing a bad golf swing for over 50 years and are no better today than they were 50 years ago. Almost no one reading the blogs and newspaper articles about Hambrick and Oswald’s findings believes them, nor should they. I will explain.
There are many more questions that need to be asked before taking this research seriously. Learn more about pinpointing specific behaviors that lead to expert performance and how recognizing and reinforcing those behaviors for success leads to personal and operational efficiency.
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