Peak – a synthesis – The 200 words project

(continued from parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) – This is a synthesis of the series of posts from the book “Peak” by Anders Ericsson.

Brooke Macnamara, David Hambrick, and Frederick Oswald reviewed a large number of studies since Anders Ericsson’s seminal 1993 paper. They found that a sheer amount of deliberate practice does not explain all variation in expert performance. They also found that it varies by context – more applicable for more predictable activities like games and sports.

deliberate-practice-variation(light gray = explained variation, dark gray = unexplained)

While this can seem discouraging, it ties into an intuitive idea – deliberate practice alone doesn’t explain all expert performance. There are many other personal and environment factors that interact with each other in making experts. However, “innate talent” is not one such factor.

What does this all mean for us? First, stop using innate talent as an excuse. Second, where possible, actively find ways to integrate the principles of deliberate practice into how we teach and learn – take the help of a coach and push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. For example, we could use regular meetings to try out new ideas and practice taking initiative or test our presentation skills.

At its core, deliberate practice is about learning how to learn and to approach what we do as enthusiastic and committed students. So, here’s to that.

This is not a pie chart (above) of talent vs. practice. All traits, including the ability to deliberately practice, involve a mix of nature and nurture. In fact, there is no such thing as innate talent. That’s a myth that is constantly perpetuated, despite the fact that most psychologists recognize that all skills require practice and support for their development– even though there are certainly genetic influences. – Scott Barry Kaufmann


Source and thanks to: Peak by Anders Ericsson, Practice alone does not make perfect – Scientific American

(The 200 words project involves sharing a story from a book/blog/article I’ve read within 200 words)

  • I’m still unconvinced and the more I read the opposing vantage points, the more I’m convinced that Anders research is flawed.

    To me, the whole notion of “there’s no such thing as innate talent” is almost as dangerous as “follow your passion.”

    Usain Bolt has innate talent to run fast. That guy is genetically capable of running after than 99.5% of the every other human being alive. Did he cultivate, and spend hours on his craft becoming an Olympic champion and World Record Holder, sure, but innate talent is present nonetheless.

    I played collegiate baseball and with guys who are still playing in the big leagues. Some of those guys had the innate ability to have faster hands/motor reflexes, better vision, more explosive fast-twitch movements, et al.

    Without cultivating that talent, there’s a rare specimen that makes it to the majors, but make no mistake, there’s countless other people that could put it 10,000 hours with the best coaches ever and they’re never going to hit .300 in the MLB.

    • There’s a piece of advice I’ve gotten. When you do something a certain way that you know is flawed, go all the way to the other end. That way, you’ll end up in the middle.

      For every Usain Bolt story, there are many about sports men and women who got there by training from when they were 1 year old. There’s some good evidence to suggest that practice changes our physical and mental make up.
      As things stand right now, we use innate talent as an excuse far too often than we should. I hope Ericsson’s work will push us to consider otherwise.