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? • None of the above. • Good news? Excellent performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever expected.
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 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.
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.
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?” • 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 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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) • When you know more, you innovate more. • When you know more, you are more creative. • When you know more, you are more successful.
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.