Monday, July 28, 2014

Can Practice Overcome a Lack of Talent?

CJ works hard, but that's not the only factor that brought his success.

Having just recently worked at the USA Weightlifting National Championships, it is clear to me that there are certain innate qualities that are essential to being able to perform at the highest level. Having said that, there is no one in lifting who can get by on natural talent alone without some hard and consistent training. There are some obvious differences between the medalists and the competitors who are there for the experience, but the difference is more than just the amount of effort expended. What can talent do? Look no further than CJ Cummings. Only 14 years old and broke the American record in the Clean and Jerk with 153 kg in the 62 kg class. I would guess that everyone of his competitors has trained significantly longer and likely as hard. He also trains hard, but with a foundation of natural abilities that are rare.
Below is an article that discusses the balance of practice and talent. Personally I don't over analyze this as it's obvious to me that both are essential. Practice is essential to maximizing the talent potential, but the old adage holds true, "you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear."

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. Can Practice Overcome a Lack of Talent? Can deliberate practice make you into a superstar? What can? Published on July 18, 2014 by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. in Cutting-Edge Leadership Recent books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Talent is Overrated (Colvin) have suggested that deliberate practice – structured practice designed to improve performance in music, sports, games, or a profession – accounts for most of the difference between average and “star performers.” In other words, the main difference between you and Tiger Woods is the thousands of hours he spends in deliberate golf practice. Very recent research suggests that deliberate practice, while important, doesn’t seem to compensate for talent and natural abilities (such as intelligence). A meta-analysis that will soon be published in the journal, Psychological Science, looked at the effect that deliberate practice had on performance in sports, games, music, education, and professions. The results showed that, across a number of studies, the amount of deliberate practice only explained 12% of the variance in performance. This means that the vast majority of variance in performance is caused by something else. These results did differ for type of activity, with the highest effect of deliberate practice for games, music, and sports, and almost no effect on educational or professional performance (i.e., being a “star” in a particular profession). These results suggest that talent matters, as well as factors such as intelligence, memory, and other innate qualities. So, can you simply make yourself into a superstar through focused and deliberate practice? Probably not, unless you have some inherent talent to begin with. On the other hand, practice does indeed help, but not as much as some would have you believe. Macnamara, B.N., Hambrick, D.Z., & Oswald, F.L. (2014). Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, education, and professions: A meta-analysis. Psychological Science (online). Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.
Talent and practice are both essential.

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