About a year and a half ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which introduced me to the idea that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to get world-class good at something. Last year, I read another book, Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, that extended that thesis. Colvin argues that not only does it take 10,000 hours of practice to become a true master at something, but it takes 10,000 hours of a specific kind of practice, something he calls “deliberate practice”.
I just stumbled across the above YouTube vid that touches on this idea of deliberate practice. I assume that premeds and medical schools are rife with discussion about deliberate practice. I’d like to know what people think about this concept. I’d be particularly interested in anectodal histories of the application of this idea and its results.
For myself, I recently celebrated my 48th birthday (somewhat ironically, the day of my Dad’s funeral). At my oldest son’s request, my wife got me a violin for my birthday gift (along with three sets of opera tickets – just saw The Barber of Seville on Saturday, which was awesome, but that’s another story). I haven’t played violin since I was 13, and I have literally forgotten everything I knew. So I’m an adult beginner. As such, I thought I might keep track of my practice hours (deliberate practice, of course) and keep a video journal of my ability, just to see this idea of deliberate practice in action.
Other input, thoughts, or stories about how this has worked for you in medicine or any other field would be welcome.
At least at our college, and I suspect at many med schools, the intense and rapid exposure to an overabundance of new information is compensated (to some extent) by repetitive exposure to the same material but in greater depth each time around.
In other words, instead of a flat time vs. material curve in which you get a limited amount of new material over time but each time it is in depth (engineering school philosophy), the curve in our med school is more of a corkscrew. As told to me by one of my professors, you go around in circles, revisiting the important material but in greater depth each time around. Sort of like the deliberate practice you mentioned. So the whole deliberate practice philosophy is well understood and backed with empirical data in the medical community.
I feel that in my practice of nursing and nurse-midwifery, that becoming expert had to do with hours spent WITH a critical eye towards what was there to learn from that patient encounter…how was I less than ideal, how could I improve my practice, what’s the rationale behind why things are done this way, what is evidence-based practice, etc.
One doesn’t achieve competence by doing things the same wrong way 10,000 times…
- Kate429 Said:
One doesn't achieve competence by doing things the same wrong way 10,000 times...
Kate, it sounds like you're correcting a misperception you sense from what I wrote. I wonder if perhaps you didn't understand the intent of my post. In fact, from what I understand, the idea of deliberate practice is very much what you describe: Paying close attention to both what you are doing and how you are doing it. It's a sort of metapracticing.
Deliberate practice as it relates to medicine is simply gestalt; the three-legged stool of evidence-based knowledge, skill and empathy. Take away any one leg and the stool falls over. You get as much from your patients as you give, something that becomes more important as you gain experience through your “deliberate practice.” The feeling you get when you can put all the pieces together to help another person never, ever gets old.
Actually, I didn’t intend to sound like I was correcting a misperception. I understood the intent of your post, and my intention was to agree with it. Since I hadn’t read the source you mention, I was including my own description of what I imagined to be deliberate practice.
in my early life, at about 11 or so, I discovered Table tennis.
I trained 24h/week and won my first international tournament 4 months later. Within a year, I managed to play in a team in the third division (the first are the pros, then there is the level under and I was one level under). I was playing folks who were up to 45 - 50 years old.
I was ranked in the 6 bests young players of my age in France (second in my academy, there are 3 academies).
I stopped for personal reasons (not being a french citizen made me ineligible to participate to the french championship. I obtained my french citizenship at 18)
Long story short: 24h per week for 1 year. That’s much less than 10,000h. I was very good at it.
I must say that the improvement is very fast when I started and with time, my skills started to level off (harder to get better with time).
The 10,000 hours seems like a lot to me (except when it comes to understanding my wife. You can easily double that, and I am not sure I would excel at that!)