Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Deliberate Practice

This is a re-posting of a blog submission I made last year. It turned out to be one of the most popular postings I made in 2012, and its message is important so I am reposting it for the benefit of those about to embark on the admissions process...

One very interesting book I have read recently is Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else, by Geoff Colvin. In this book, he attempts to define what makes some people amazing at what they do, and in doing so shows that answers like "they are really smart" or "they work hard" are not entirely correct.  Instead, he points to something he defines as deliberate practice as the key to success.  Deliberate practice is, by his definition, boring, repetitive, highly focused on weaknesses, and informed by instruction.  It is hard to do and is rarely enjoyable.  But the people that do it, do it regularly, and do it well, can and do succeed. 

When I read this book immediately I thought of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule. He wrote about this in his book Outliers: Stories of Success, showing how often, those who have achieved great success have done so by acquiring focused experience (i.e. 10,000 hours worth) in a particular area.  I wondered what the similarities and differences were between Colvin and Gladwell's approach.  Read on in a recent posting to the Barking up the Wrong Tree blog (which comes highly recommended by the way) to see how these ideas come together.

The importance for MBA or LLM applicants?  Hard work - effort - is not enough, and simply worrying about your situation is not enough too.  Instead, you need to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, work closely with someone to build a plan to highlight the strengths and address the weaknesses, and then carry out that plan.   This applies to document preparation, and to interview practice as well.

John Couke