Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deliberate Practice Required

I'm borrowing the title quote and thoughts from James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner's excellent book "The Truth About Leadership". It's one of my top books of 2010 (read the full list here).

Researchers are clear about this point: It doesn't matter whether it's in sports, music, medicine, computer programming, mathematics, or other fields. Talent is not the key that unlocks excellence.

You need a particular kind of practice - deliberate practice - to develop expertise.

Since the theme this week has been all about books, reading, and learning, I want to paraphrase Kouzes and Posner's discussions on deliberate practice and apply them to reading.

Five Elements in the Deliberate Practice of Reading
  • Design a reading discipline to specifically improve your performance - if you want to become an expert, you have to have a methodology, a clear goal, a way to measure success, and a specific process for accomplishing the goal.
  • Reading has to be repeated a lot - sloppy execution is not acceptable to top performers. Read far and wide in your chosen field with sustained effort.
  • Feedback on your results must be continuously available - every learner needs feedback. As you are reading, make it a practice to share your insights, comments, and questions with a group of peers, a mentor, or some other third party to help you analyze how you are doing.
  • Reading is highly demanding mentally - developing expertise requires intense concentration and focus. Reading sessions need to be free of those daily interruptions that are commonplace in everyone's day-to-day routines.
  • Sometimes reading isn't all that fun - while you should love what you do, deliberate reading practice is not designed to be fun. The knowledge that you are improving and getting closer to your dream of superior performance should outweigh the sacrifices you make.
The best leaders are the best learners.

The best learners are the best readers.

Want to join me on the "practice" field of reading?

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