High performers are made, not born. This is the central thesis of Geoff Colvin’s new book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. He argues that it is “deliberate practice” that makes people highly successful. Sean Murray’s blog, RealTime Leadership, summarizes the key principles of deliberate practice and explains how it is different from simply “practice.”
Colvin argues that most companies have failed to create the conditions necessary for deliberate practice. But this creates a wonderful opportunity for these companies to become more successful. In the Fortune blog, Colvin writes:
Bottom line, at most companies: The fundamentals of fostering great performance are mainly unrecognized or ignored. Of course that means the opportunities for achieving advantage by adopting the principles of great performance are huge. A few companies realize that. They embed mentoring and coaching in the culture, develop employees' careers through carefully chosen growth assignments, and increasingly put people through high-fidelity simulations, among other steps.
Colvin is talking about learning. Not cram-for-the-exam type learning, but learning that is planned, continuous, purposeful, and done with great passion. It’s not simply about experience. Experience doesn’t result in high performance unless there is a concerted effort of feedback and reflection that results in continuous learning. That is, learning how to be more effective and learning how to learn how to be more effective. I like this quote from Michael Jordan who some say was the greatest basketball player of all time: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”