I had asked a group of participants in a workshop how many digits they could try and memorize. Most people spoke of 7-10 digit number. Maybe, their limit was biased because the largest number they have committed to memory is their mobile phone number. I challenged them to memorize a 15 digit random number 395408217608441. Before you read this post any further, take a minute and try to memorize the number and then write it down. Try it till you get all 15 digits correct and in that sequence.
While most people in the workshop failed a few times, the person who got it right first had memorized the number by “chunking” i.e. remembering the number in chunks of four. 3954-0821-7608-441. Using this technique for remembering numbers helped many others to boost their ‘working memory’. Would this technique work if the number had 40 digits? Since chunking works and people are already used to remembering ten digit mobile numbers, could that help us remember a 40 digit number?
Is it fair to say that when you practice doing something over and over again, you work towards gaining mastery. There is one barrier that we need to overcome – repetition. Most people hate doing the same task over and over again. But it is only through repetition that our skill improves. Wait a minute …
“Practice makes a man (or woman) perfect.” Is that true? What do the experts say? What does research tell us?
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000-Hour-Rule”. He says, it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become a master of a skill. Gladwell’s book Outliers told people that if they put in 10,000 hours of practice, they could master any skill. His finding was based on Anders Ericsson’s research paper – The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.
Anders Ericsson does not agree with the 10,000 hour rule. He differentiates between practice and deliberate practice. Spending 10,000 hours practicing a wrong move, will not make you an expert. It is Deliberate Practice and not simple practice builds expertise.
In deliberate practice, you have fix the snag by doing just that section over and over again till you get it right. For instance, if you are getting one line of a song wrong, practice just that one line (not the full song) for the entire hour till you get it right and it becomes muscle memory. Most people will sing the full song over and over again, but that little wrinkle never goes away. Only deliberate practice will lead you towards expertise.
Deliberate practice means getting outside your comfort zone; getting feedback on what can be done to improve your performance and see what the experts of your field do, that sets them apart. When someone boasts about having done their role for years, they may have had practice, but without deliberate practice, they will stay at the level of being marginally better than a rank novice. Regular practice will take you from 0 to 30 on a skill. Deliberate practice takes you from 30 to 100.
Originally published @ http://www.abhijitbhaduri.com/index.php/2016/07/expertise/
Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group. He lives in Bangalore, India. Prior to this he led HR teams at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Colgate and Tata Steel and worked in India, SE Asia and US. He is on the Advisory Board of the prestigious program for Chief Learning Officers that is run by the Univ of Pennsylvania.
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