Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deliberate Practice: How to Develop Expertise

We all want to be great at something. Developing true expertise at a skill requires "deliberate practice". Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, currently at Florida State University, has been a pioneer and at the forefront of research on expertise. His research has overlapped into medical education with at least 15 publications in PubMed specific to medicine.

Take your first bite into the apple of Ericsson's research by reading his 2007 article in the Harvard Business Review:

Ericsson, K., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T. (2007). The Making of an Expert.
Harvard Business Review, 85(7/8), 114-121.

How can you not be drawn in to read this article when you see the following opening sentence?

"New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill."

It's rather refreshing to know that we have the potential to be experts at something even if we weren't "just born with it". All one needs is about ten years, or roughly 10,000 hours, to practice a skill deliberately, a mentor or coach to provide feedback, and more time to practice, refine, and tune your skills.

You can a get good overview of his ideas of how deliberate practice develops expertise in medicine by reading his 2008 article:

Ericsson, K A. (2008). Deliberate practice and acquisition of expert performance: a general overview. Academic emergency medicine, 15(11), 988-94.

One of his pivotal articles on deliberate practice was written in 1993 while he was at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This paper would be well worth the read if you are interested in this topic because it has been cited over 2167 times according to Google Scholar!

Ericsson KA, Krampe RT, Teschromer C. (1993) The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological review, 100(3), 363-406.

Take heart that if you love something enough to want to excel in it, you hopefully by now have already clocked in or nearing your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Fire up the stopwatch and off you go!

Still can't get enough about this topic of deliberate practice? Read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers about the story of success.