Tag Archives: Geoffrey Colvin

Practice Outweighs Talent in Developing Expert Performance

Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle

Journalist Daniel Coyle consolidated neuroscience research with stories of expert performers in The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How .
He distilled three principles that enable performance development across a variety of skills and fields: The Talent Code

“Deep” Practice, which includes daily repetition for up to several hours, observation, and corrective feedback by an expert to develop the myelin of “muscle memory” and increase neural signal strength, speed and accuracy.
This practice must be characterized by focused attention to mimic expert performance, reduce errors, and willingness to practice at increasingly more challenging levels.

Ignition, or commitment based on “unconscious desires” and “triggered by primal cues”

Master Coaching, in which to expert teacher encourages “ignition” and “deep” practice with:

1. Task-specific knowledge explained with vivid examples and meaningful metaphors
2. Perceptive tailoring to each student’s skills and needs
3. “The GPS Reflex”, or providing timely, specific guidance
4. “Theatrical Honesty,” or ability to empathically connect with students

K Anders Ericcson

K Anders Ericsson

Related Posts review foundational research by K. Anders Ericsson, who suggested that expert performance requires “10000 hours of practice.”

Geoff Colvin

Geoff Colvin

Talent is Overrated

Talent is Overrated

Like Coyle, Geoff Colvin argues that Talent is Overrated and can be eclipsed by systematic practice with corrective coaching.

Paul Herr’s Primal Management: Unraveling the Secrets of Human Nature to Drive High Performance also argues that motivation in the workplace, as in Coyle’s broader discussion of performance and motivation, is based on the “evolutionary psychology” of “tribal survival” and includes:

Paul Herr

Paul Herr

  • Self-Protection, the foundation of Maslow’s hierarch of higher-order needs

    Abraham Maslow

    Abraham Maslow

  • Cooperation, collaborative work in groups fulfills people’s social desires to belong to a group working toward a shared goal
  • Skill deployment, opportunity to develop skills and experience satisfaction with progressive improvement
  • Competency, opportunity to demonstrate skills and receive social recognition for these improvements
  • Innovation, based on people’s curiosity and desire to make in processes, systems, ideas, Primal Managementevents

-*How do you develop your talents?

-*Where do you find expert coaching?

-*How do you persist in “Deep Practice” even when it’s “no fun”?

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How and Who of Innovation

Many innovation experts urge overcoming roadblocks by “doing something different”, and Alex Cornell joins the chorus in his Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination 

In contrast, Tom Kelley offered more specific guidance in the stages of “how” innovation is managed at IDEO in   
  The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm:

•              Analyze the market, potential client groups, technology, and constraints for each innovation problem
•              Observe people in typical life situations
•              Visualize novel concepts and their intended customers
•              Evaluate and refine prototypes during rapid iterations
•              Implement new concept for commercialization

Steven Johnson offers seven non-linear principles of innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:                                                          

•              Adjacent possible: Timing is essential for innovation to be accepted

•              Liquid networks: Connections between different disciplines to enable ideas development and implementation

•              Slow hunch: Insights incubate, germinate over time before becoming executable

•              Serendipity: Spontaneous, chance juxtaposition of ideas applied to other

•              Error: Outcomes considered “failures” from numerous trials  may lead to – and be required – to successfully implement ideas

•              Exaptation: Reusing existing ideas, technologies for a different purpose

•              Platforms: Adapting, recombining existing knowledge, components, implementation approaches to develop something new

Expert innovators seem to follow these guidelines and have developed skill through what Geoff Colvin calls “Deliberate Practice” in “What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else”, the sub-title of his book, Talent is Overrated.

He notes that Deliberate Practice is not considered “fun”, but is a highly demanding and repeated mental challenge, systematically designed to improve performance with consistent expert monitoring and feedback.

Colvin’s premise is based on K. Anders Ericsson’s classic Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of an Expert“, which outlines three contributors to superior performance across disciplines:

•             Deliberate Practice to improve existing skills and to extend the reach and range of skills
•             Expert coaching with consistent monitoring and corrective feedback
•              Support from family and mentors

Kelley of IDEO focused more recently on the “who” of innovation in The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, organized by Learning, Building, and Organizing capabilities:                     

•              Experience
•              Set Designer
•              Caregiver
•              Storyteller
•              Anthropologist
•              Cross-pollinator
•              Hurdler
•              Experimenter
•              Collaborator
•              Director
Meredith Belbin offered similar analysis of eight team roles in his Team Roles at Work  and Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail  to ignite collaborative strategy definition and execution.   

These findings suggest that processes and practices can help shape innovation, but consistent, focused and attentive practice increases capacity to innovate more than “natural talent” — validating the well-known homespun advice to “work hard” and demonstrate a “strong work ethic.”

-*What processes and roles do you use to increase innovation at work?

Related post:  
It’s Mostly Random, So Just Do Something: Suggestions to Guide Innovation, Creativity

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