Does Talent Really Matter?

Aug. 8, 2012
The differences between "just practice" and "deliberate practice" are explored.

As the world is focused on the Olympics, questions invariably arise as to what sets apart one competitor in a particular event from another.

Is it their country of origin? Family history? Training routines? Or maybe just luck?

In Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated, he makes the compelling case that it is deliberate practice which differentiates those who succeed over others.

Deliberate practice is the opposite of what most of us think practice is.

We practice all the time. Think about the last time you hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. There may have been a short-term benefit, but over time those benefits fade.

Colvin points out that deliberate practice is characterized by several elements, and he explores each carefully.

In brief, here they are:

It’s designed specifically to improve performance.

This is rooted in accessing the body of knowledge in a given area through a teacher’s help. In other words, the design of the practice is what matters. Colvin observes that, “anyone who thinks they’ve outgrown the benefits of a teacher’s help should at least question that view. There’s a reason why the world’s best golfers still go to teachers.”

It can be repeated a lot.

“The most effective deliberate practice activities are those that can be repeated at high volume.”

Feedback on results is continuously available.

Results require interpretation, and this is so often where the teacher, coach, or mentor is vital.

It’s highly demanding mentally.

Colvin believes that deliberate practice is above all an effort of intensive focus and concentration. This is what makes it “deliberate”.

It isn’t much fun.

Here the concept of deliberate practice is at its most interesting. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”

May you practice deliberately!

About the Author

Andrew R. Thomas Blog | Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business

Andrew R. Thomas, Ph.D., is associate professor of marketing and international business at the University of Akron; and, a member of the core faculty at the International School of Management in Paris, France.

He is a bestselling business author/editor, whose 23 books include, most recently, American Shale Energy and the Global Economy: Business and Geopolitical Implications of the Fracking Revolution, The Customer Trap: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Business, Global Supply Chain Security, The Final Journey of the Saturn V, and Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service and Safety.

His book The Distribution Trap was awarded the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the Best Marketing Book of 2010. Another work, Direct Marketing in Action, was a finalist for the same award in 2008.

Andrew is founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security and a regularly featured analyst for media outlets around the world.

He has traveled to and conducted business in 120 countries on all seven continents.

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