Tag Archives: K. Anders Ericsson

Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can prevent crucial workplace errors and increase quality in medical settings, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He found that people effectively improved their performance when they recognized weaknesses in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied across industries:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids,
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberately monitoring potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

These elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude because relevant information is widely available, Gawande noted.
He suggested that both errors can be improved by systematic analysis and consistent use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, so Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequent approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture firm replaces the company’s originators,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This last approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists in these studies reported that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

©Kathryn Welds


“Grit” Rivals IQ and EQ to Achieve Goals

Emotional intelligence has been demonstrated to be a better predictor of achievement and performance than measure of intelligence. 

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

One important component of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is perseverance, the consistent, sustained and focused application of talent and effort over time, University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth.  

Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson

She refers to this perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “grit” in her research with West Point cadets and Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants, in collaboration with University of Michigan’ Christopher Peterson and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly of United States Military Academy, West Point.

Grit was not related to IQ but was highly correlated with “Conscientiousness,” a personality trait described in the Five Factor Model of Personality.
It was also a better predictor of “success” as measured by retention at West Point, and advancement in the National Spelling Bee.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews

In addition, “grittier” participants:

  • Achieved higher levels of education
  • Had fewer job switches and career changes
  • Earned higher school grades than their peers, despite having lower standardized test scores measuring intelligence and achievement
  • Devoted more hours to deliberate practice (defined as individual word study and memorization for spelling bee contestants).
Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

The most effective deliberate practice was rated as the least pleasurable, and “grittier” individuals did more of this effort in Duckworth’s expanded study with Teri Kirby, Eli Tsukayama, Heather Berstein,  then of Penn with K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.

Heather Berstein

Heather Berstein

Practice activities rated as more pleasurable and less effortful, like reading for pleasure, being quizzed by their parents, contributed less to spelling performance.

Paul Tough

Paul Tough

Parents and educators found responded enthusiastically to Paul Tough’s popularized summary of “grit” research in his book advising parents and teachers how to help young people develop grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
He “gritty” attributes highly correlated with successful academic and career performance.

Duckworth expanded the investigation of grit to include “explanatory style”, seen in individuals’ propensity to explain events from optimistic or pessimistic perspectives.
Explanatory style is evaluated according to whether the individual considers event causes as:

  • Personal (Internal vs. External cause or influence)
  • Permanent (Stable vs. Unstable)
  • Pervasive (Global vs. Local/Specific)

Optimistic explanatory style is characterized by external, unstable, local / specific explanations, whereas pessimistic styles include internal, stable, global attributions.

Duckwork and team found that novice teachers with more optimistic explanatory styles rated themselves higher in both grit and life satisfaction, and these high ratings were associated with better work effectiveness, as evaluated at the end of the school year.

Eli Tsukayama

Eli Tsukayama

Katherine Von Culin

Katherine Von Culin

Her students, Katherine Von Culin and Eli Tsukayama “unpacked” grit and found different difference in motivation and beliefs for grit’s two components:  perseverance vs passion.
Among more than 300 volunteers, they found that perseverance and passion had different meaning, pleasure, and engagement orientations to happiness and implicit beliefs about willpower.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

The research team is evaluating the relationship between “grit” and “growth mindset,” introduced by Stanford’s Carol Dweck to signify viewing failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than a permanent lack of ability.



Dweck, with Lisa Blackwell, then of Columbia and University of Western Ontario’s Kali Trzesniewski demonstrated the impact of growth mindset and positive explanatory style on school motivation and achievement.

In addition, Duckworth and team are considering ability to delay gratification as a component of grit, since it has been associated with greater self-control and life accomplishment.

More grit may not always lead to greater accomplishment.
Duckworth and team speculate that grittier individuals may be:

  • More vulnerable to the “sunk-cost fallacy
  • Less open to information that contradicts their present beliefs
  • Handicapped by judgment and decision-making biases
  • Likely to new opportunities because they are tenaciously focused on the original goal.
Emilia Lahti

Emilia Lahti

Duckworth‘s colleague at Penn, Emilia Lahti is leading research on grit’s Finnish cousin, “Sisu,” implying perseverance, bravery and stamina, and should report her findings by the end of 2013.

Assess your “grittiness” with the research team’s survey.

-*How accurately does your score reflect your view of your grittiness, perseverance?

-*How do you develop grit in yourself and others?


Twitter:    @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

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”?

Related Posts

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds

How Can Dance Inform Business Thinking?

Peter Lovatt

Peter Lovatt founded the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire, which combines his performance experience as a professional dancer with his training as a research psychologist.

In several TED talks, he marvels at his career trajectory because he “was rubbish at school,” and was relegated to Special Education classes, probably due to his undiagnosed ADHD.

His career demonstrates an innovative synthesis of disciplines with his current research agenda investigating the impact of dance on problem solving using divergent thinking and convergent thinking strategies.

Peter Lovatt at TED

Lovatt’s experiments demonstrated that volunteers who engaged in improvised dance movements solved divergent thinking problems more quickly than when they performed more structured dance maneuvers, or no movement at all.

Similarly, his work showed these volunteers increased their speed of solving convergent thinking problems after they engaged in choreographed dance moves.

These findings may not imply that innovation teams should engage in structured and unstructured movements at work, but it does support the positive impact of dance movement on neural processing speed and problem solving.

Lovatt extended this work to patients with Parkinson’s disease, known to disrupt divergent thinking processes, to validate his findings with normal volunteers.
He demonstrated that Parkinson’s disease patients improved the divergent thinking problem solving after they engaged in improvised dance sequences, and hypothesized that these patients develop new neural pathways to “work around” dopamine-depleted blockages.

Peter Lovatt leading dance experiment

Lovatt’s group found increases in self-esteem among participants in dance styles that:

  • Include more improvisational elements (“high degree of tolerance for not getting it right”),
  • Are gender or culturally neutral
  • Raise the heart rate
  • Are repetitive
  • Encourage looser fitting clothes (in contrast to ballet)
  • Are non-competitive

Related Post on impact of dance:
Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity 

Twyla Tharp

MacArthur Fellowship and Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp discussed innovation and collaboration through the lens of dance in two books with lessons applicable to business.

In The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life she asserts that creative expression requires perseverance, practice, hard work, “showing up,” and cultivating systematic habits to act upon innovative initiative.

This echoes the action-orientation advocated by Malcolm Gladwell in his observation of 10,000 hours of practice to develop virtuoso performance and by sports psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, summarized in these related posts:

Tharp’s The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together discusses both how collaboration can change the participants, and practical approaches to collaborative creation – which she acknowledges has not been completely smooth in some of her work with luminaries including Richard Avedon, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bob Dylan, Milos Forman,  Norma Kamali, Frank Sinatra.
Two related posts on Collaboration are:

Dance provides a fresh perspective and metaphor for business challenges including problem solving, innovation, and collaboration.

-*How do you react to Lovatt’s and Tharp’s application of movement in problem solving, collaboration and innovation?

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

Twitter: @kathrynwelds
LinkedIn Open Group The Executive Coach
Facebook Notes:

Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

©Kathryn Welds

Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

Carol Dweck

Stanford professor Carol Dweck distilled Salvador Maddi’s three mindsets into two mindsets in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

She differentiated:
• Fixed Mindset – Belief that personal capabilities are given, fixed, limited to present capacities.
This “nature” mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.
• Growth Mindset– Belief that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes. This “nurture” mindset enables teamwork and collaboration.
K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

Research by K. Anders Ericsson demonstrated that highly skilled experts in nearly every field are distinguished from their talented peers by practice.
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell asserted that expert performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice.

The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games

Expert Performance in Sports: Advances in Research on Sport Expertise

Although mindsets consist of relatively stable beliefs, they can be modified by reinforcing, praising, and rewarding performance strategy and process, not the resulting outcome.

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland introduced a practice of “vetting emotions” using a three step process to investigate and manage emotions

• Validate – Name the emotion
• Explore – What is the broader context?
What are the familiar reaction patterns?
• Tolerate – Transform limiting emotions into information and intelligence to move forward

“Cognitive appraisal” refers to evaluative elements of thoughts, and can provoke emotions.
This type of appraisal is based on three factors, outlined by eminent researcher

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman in his book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

• Personalization of cause, responsibility: Internal control vs External control
• Pervasiveness of event and impact: Specific vs Global
• Permanence of event and impact: Temporary vs. Continuing

Kivland suggested that mindsets and related attitudes can direct individuals to either of two paths:

• Surviving Path, based on reactive, fearful protecting from anticipated danger

• Hope Path, proactive, thriving, growing, able to let go of fears, observe emotions as information for decision-making rather than as unpleasant experiences to be tolerated

Kivland, Dweck, Maddi, Ericcson, Seligman, and other advocates of Emotional Intelligence practices suggest benefits of the Hope Path.

Dweck model and the mindset of positive psychology

Dweck’s Brainology software for students

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset to increase Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 1

-*What “mindsets” help you achieve optimal performance in work and life activities?

LinkedIn Open Group Mindful Leadership
Twitter: @kathrynwelds
Facebook Notes:
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

©Kathryn Welds