Expert Performance: Can You Teach It?

You can’t coach tall, but you coach playing tall. ~

Expert Performance: Can You Teach It?

In his new book, “Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise,” K. Anders Ericsson, discusses a theme he has become the focus of his career.  The theme is that “deliberate practice” produces greatness in every field.

The discussion becomes tricky when the subject switches to sports.  People look at basketball players and see the advantage of tall players over shorter players.  However, some of the greatest basketball players were not the tallest.

John Stockton 6’1″
Bob Cousy 6’1″
Isiah Thomas 6′ 1″
Kevin Johnson 6’1″
Chris Paul 6′

Ericsson’s idea of deliberate practice is that simply repeating something does not create greatness.  Greatness comes from doing something, understanding how to improve what you have done, and then building on and practicing the improved method.

Coaching success illustrates this point.

During a twelve-year period, UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden won 10 NCAA national championships. One of Wooden’s many quotes is “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

During a 25-year career at the University of Nebraska, Tom Osborne’s team won 84 percent of their games.

Under Coach John McDonnell, the University of Arkansas track and field team has won 40 NCAA championships.

Kids playing basketball with other kids improve their skills through repetition.  However, the history of coaches who win year after year helps illustrate that teaching kids makes enables them to build on the skills to become great.

Expert Performance in Business

In every field, people become more successful when they surround themselves with people who can teach them things.  Great companies have great people throughout the company.  Great companies also bring in people from the outside to help them achieve even greater things.  The McKinsey Way deals with this subject in detail.