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Talent Is Overrated What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else Geoff Colvin. 2008. New York: Portfolio. The Mystery What makes Jack Welch, Tiger Woods, or Itzak Perlman so awesomely, amazingly, world-class excellent. Natural talent? Hard work? Years of experience?

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Talent Is Overrated


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talent is overrated

Talent Is Overrated

What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Geoff Colvin. 2008. New York: Portfolio.

the mystery
The Mystery
  • What makes Jack Welch, Tiger Woods, or Itzak Perlman so awesomely, amazingly, world-class excellent.
    • Natural talent?
    • Hard work?
    • Years of experience?
  • None of the above.
  • Good news? Excellent performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever expected.
research
Research
  • In past 30 years scientists have looked into top-level performance in a wide variety of fields. Findings:
    • Natural talent doesn’t explain top-level performance – if talent even exists.
    • In fields such as chess, music, business, and medicine, high IQ doesn’t necessarily correlate with top-level performance.
      • Some chess masters have below average IQ, for example.
    • Deliberate practice is the key.
deliberate practice
Deliberate Practice
  • Deliberate practice is extremely difficult.
    • The chief constraint is mental.
    • The required concentration is so intense that it’s exhausting.
  • Why do some people have the passion to do it?
    • To put themselves through it day after day, decade after decade?
  • But they do it, and as a result, performance in all fields has improved dramatically in recent decades.
research5
Research
  • In England researchers studied music students.
    • The only difference in the top performing group and other students was not talent, but the amount of practice.
  • Talent is an innate ability to do something better than others.
    • If it does exist, it is irrelevant to superior performance.
    • Practice is what counts – deliberate practice.
slide6

Mozart’s talent is a myth.

    • He didn’t get great until after he had 10,000 hours of practice.
  • Tiger Woods talented?
    • His father gave Tiger a putter when he was seven months old.
    • Before he was two he and his father were on a course practicing regularly.
    • Both father and son attribute Tiger’s success not to talent but to “hard work.”
how important are smarts
How Important Are “Smarts?”
  • What are smarts?
    • Memory?
    • We aren’t born with good memories, they are developed…
      • With deliberate practice memory can be improved (102 random digits is the record).
    • IQ?
      • IQ is the ability to take an IQ test, nothing else.
      • No correlation between general IQ and success.
      • Domain-specific knowledge and intelligence is developed by years of deliberate practice.
deliberate practice8
Deliberate Practice
  • Design practice to work on specific skills.
    • Practice alone and on specific weaknesses.
  • Practice is cumulative.
    • Over the years it adds up.
    • And if you’re behind, it’s hard to catch up.
    • Ten years or 10,000 hours.
five elements of deliberate practice
Five Elements of Deliberate Practice
  • Activity specifically designed to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help.
  • Activity that can be repeated a lot – over and over and over again.
  • Feedback on results is continuously available.
  • It’s highly demanding mentally.
    • Chess, business, sports
  • It isn’t much fun.
designed
Designed
  • Identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved.
  • High repetition is the most important difference between regular practice and deliberate practice.
  • Deliberate practice is an effort of focused concentration and is mentally draining.
    • No more than five hours.
  • It’s not fun because you do things we’re not good at so we can correct mistakes.
top performers
Top Performers
  • They are always striving to improve.
    • Not complacent.
    • Never let performance become automatic.
  • They understand the significance of indicators that average performers don’t even notice.
    • Intuition
  • They look further ahead.
  • They know more from seeing less.
    • A few important indicators.
      • Jack Welch concentrated on hiring people.
applying the principles
Applying the Principles
  • Know where you want to go.
  • Practice, practice, practice (deliberate practice).
  • Deepen your domain knowledge.
    • Build a mental model of how your domain functions as a system.
      • A mental model forms a framework on which you hang your growing knowledge of your domain.
      • Helps you distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information.
      • Helps you project what will happen next.
know more explore
Know More (Explore)
  • When you know more, you innovate more.
  • When you know more, you are more creative.
  • When you know more, you are more successful.
summary
Summary
  • Know how to practice deliberately.
    • Lots of repetitions
    • Lots of feedback
    • Lots of focus and concentration
  • Become an expert in domain-specific knowledge.
    • Thus, develop insightful intuition.
  • Never become complacent.
  • It’s really hard work.