Dec 272010

Book Short: Beyond 10,000 Hours

Book Short: Beyond 10,000 Hours

In Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell (post, buy), we are taught, among other things, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, as well as a dash of luck and timing, as opposed to huge amounts of innate and unique talent.  In Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin, this theory comes to life, with a very clear differentiating point – it’s not just logging the 10,000 hours, it’s HOW the hours are spent.

Colvin’s main point is that the hours need to be spent in what he calls “deliberate practice.”  The elements of deliberate practice are best explained with his example of Jerry Rice, although you can apply these to any discipline:

  • He spent very little time playing football (e.g., most of his practice was building specific skills, not playing the game)
  • He designed his practice to work on specific needs
  • While supported by others, he did much of the work on his own (e.g., it can be repeated a lot, and there are built-in feedback loops)
  • It wasn’t fun
  • He defied the conventional limits of age

If you’re the kind of person who cares deeply about your own performance, let alone the performance of people around you, it doesn’t take long to be completely riveted by Colvin’s points.  They ring true, and his examples are great and cross a lot of disciplines (though not a ton about business in particular).  I wasn’t 50% done with the book before I had made my list of three key things that I need to Deliberately Practice.

There are some other great aspects to the book as well — including a section on Making Organizations Innovative, from creating a culture of innovation to allowing people the freedom to think, to a section on where passion and drive come from, but hopefully this post conveys the gist of it all.  Want to be a better CEO?  Or a better anything?  This is a good place to start the process.

Thanks to Greg Sands for sending me this excellent book.  I’m going to work it into my rotation for Return Path anniversary presents.

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