Archive for June, 2011

Deliberate Practice

June 27th, 2011

That is what it is all about folks. Not the Hokey Pokey as previously before supposed. Deliberate Practice is how you become an expert in your field. It is what separates the good from the great. The great don’t practice longer than the good they just practice better. Let me be specific in describing the difference in the type of practice because this is one of those things that people just nod their heads about without really understanding and are afraid to raise their hand to ask for clarification.

The practice that we’ve become accustomed to is going through the motions of what you might do when performing and some even break it down further to specific skills so that you don’t have to think about it. But deliberate practice is an intense, focused effort on a single portion of a skill that needs improved with immediate feedback and correction. Because it is so intense it is recommended that you only engage in it for an hour a day and at first just 10-20 minutes until you build up your capacity for such intensity.

Sports is the easiest type to differentiate. Take a basketball player who wants to improve their shooting. He would dedicate extra time shooting a certain number of hoops after practice or until he made a certain number in a row. But someone who was engaging in deliberate practice would have a coach or third party critiquing each shot. It would be the same shot over and over and the focus would not be so much on the result as a particular portion of the mechanics of the motion like the way the ball was gripped or the way the shooter followed through. Both kinds of practice creates that muscle memory but the deliberate practice player knows exactly every component of a successful shot increasing his chances of success by a larger factor than the other player thereby become better or great by comparison.

The tricky part is when you start to move to more cognitive skills. It requires greater specificity around what you are trying to accomplish. That can be more difficult than it sounds because it may change over time in certain professions. For example a musician may first be deemed prolific at their ability to execute and remember the correct notes but later in their career “greatness” may be because they can make the music come alive with appropriate changes in tempo, rhythm and volume on the same piece of music they learned earlier. If they fail to learn that skill they will know longer be considered  an expert by these new standards.

So as you encounter problems look for positive deviance to find the experts and then deliberate practice to transfer the knowledge to the rest of the individuals in the group. Though knowledge and ability is only half the battle in orchestrating change but it does pave the way. For those interested in learning more about deliberate practice then checkout Dr. Anders Ericsson’s work.

The downside of rose-colored glasses

June 20th, 2011

I’m trying a little experiment with the help of a friend of mine who claims he wants to run his own company but doesn’t have a great idea.  The experiment is to see if I can prompt him to develop a habit of  identifying business ideas or problem/opportunity scenarios. Now he is a great problem solver-that is what he loves to do but he claims he’s just not good at seeing problems. So my first attempt will be to send him emails at random times during the day either requesting that he reply with a new business idea from random sources, a problem that needs solving, or a request to identify a number of problems he observes within the next x number of minutes. Any other ideas on how to turn him into a opportunity recognition machine?

Thinking Like a Traveler

June 19th, 2011

My absence has been prompted by my geographic relocation. Whenever you move to a new place you notice the differences that disrupt your expectations which isn’t always a bad thing. It reminded me of a section of a talk by Tom Kelley of Ideo fame on How to be an Innovator for Life:

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