How to Accelerate Skill Acquisition: The Science of Deliberate Practice

Over and over again, research has shown that experts are not born; they are made. So, how can you fast-track your journey towards becoming the expert in the room? I really enjoyed this simple idea that was shared by David McLean, which suggested that the answer lies in the concept of “deliberate practice” or “Informed purposeful practice”.

Here’s a breakdown of the essential components:

  1. Rely on Established Knowledge: Harness skills and techniques that have already been figured out by others. This means relying on an established knowledge base about effective training methods.
  2. Set Specific Goals: Always practice with clear, well-defined objectives in mind.
  3. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Regularly challenge yourself to push your boundaries further.
  4. Be Fully Engaged: Ensure you are entirely present during training, using your full attention and making conscious efforts.
  5. Incorporate Feedback: Continuously use feedback to adjust and steer towards your goals.
  6. Develop Mental Representations: Create new cognitive frameworks to master the skill. Numerous studies have shown that expert performers have advanced mental representations, allowing them to surpass limitations faced by their peers.
  7. Build on Foundational Skills: Always build newly acquired skills on top of what you’ve previously learned, emphasising the mastery of foundational skills.

A nice reminder that we can all become experts.


Acknowledgment: This post is inspired by the works of Anders Ericsson, particularly the article “The Making of an Expert” by K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely. The infographic is sourced from PositivePsychology.


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