Talent is Overrated

is the title of another excellent book (isbn 1857885198) by Geoff Colvin. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Deliberate practice is not what most of us do when we think we're practising.
Most organizations are terrible at applying the principles of great performance. Many companies seem arranged almost perfectly to prevent people from taking advantage of these principles for themselves.
nothing, it turned out, enabled any group to reach any given grade without putting in those hours. ... There is absolutely no evidence of a 'fast track' for high achievers.
memory ability is very clearly created rather than innate.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has been clear about what the company is looking for: someone who is externally focused, is a clear thinker, has imagination, is an inclusive leader, and is a confident expert.
The roadblocks we face seem to be mostly imaginary.
Jerry Rice was the greatest because he worked harder in practice and in the off-season that anyone else; he spent very little time playing football; he designed his practice to work on his specific needs; he did much of the work on his own; it wasn't fun; he defied the conventional limits of age.
Practice is so hard that doing a lot of it requires people to arrange their lives in particular ways.
The advantage of practice was cumulative.
Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them.
Practicing without feedback is like bowling through a curtain that hangs down to knee level. You can work on technique all you like, but if you can't see the effects, two things will happen: You won't get any better, and you'll stop caring.
Feedback? At most companies this is a travesty, consisting of an annual performance review dreaded by the person delivering it and the one receiving it. Even if it's well done, it cannot be effective. Telling someone what he did well or poorly on a task he completed eleven months ago is just not helpful.
Practice is designed, so it can be designed well or badly.
Great performers never allows themselves to reach the automatic, arrested-development stage in their chosen fields. The essence of practice, which is constantly trying to do the things one cannot do comfortably, makes automatic behavior impossible.
In fact what they [great performers] have achieved is the ability to avoid doing it automatically.

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