Book Summary: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson

10,000 hour rule?  Well, how about we just aim for 100  hours of increasing difficulty in the right environment.

Anders Ericsson has spent his life researching top performers in business and other areas. Peak analyzes the methods that individuals have used to across all disciplines to achieve the highest levels of competency. The book shows that talent is only a factor at the lowest levels of competition, and not really a factor at all at the highest level.

In a nutshell, here is the summary and ideas regarding how to act on the information presented in the book:

1 Have the mindset of example top performers. They believe that by improving their skills through increasing challenges, they will dominate.

2 Have a teacher and also a buddy who can give direct expert feedback.

3 Structure work for short cycle feedback from the teacher and the buddy.

4 Do work of increasing difficulty.

5 Motivation is about environment.

6 Abandon business-as-usual mindset.
Myth 1
Someone is good and someone is bad at the job – someone can do it well and someone else cannot do it well, because of intelligence or genetics.
Example, “He can’t manage ( xxx ) , he isn’t a ( xx ).”

Fact: This isn’t true when tested, so throw a red flag or yellow card when these statements are said to encourage someone to reevaluate negative statements.
Myth 2
Doing something for a long time does makes you better at it.

Fact: Doing something for a long time without a program of improvement ensures skills will not keep up and can even worsen.
Myth 3
To improve, just try harder, and apply more effort.

Fact: A change of exercises and practice and a program of change is how top performers improve.

General notes
Short cycle feedback
Have a pass/fail clear feedback on improving capabilities and skills.

The general aim is to improve what the client gets, improve the deliverable and service quality – this gets extra work input most efficiently from other consultants. See battle buddy concept below.

Representations
Accuracy of the feedback is dependent on completeness of representations in the mind of the teacher. Teacher should have the best representation/model (knowledge) available. Only a teacher can impart a more complete representation to students.

Engagement
Engagement is required and it is personal. It is personal preference and it is emotional.

Engagement can also be solicited by pointing out disengagement.

Staying engaged is the best way to identify deviation from perfect or ideal performance.

No teacher?
Focus. Feedback. Fix it.
Breakdown skill to components that can be analyzed effectively, determine weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.

Break plateaus with iteration of change. First, try changing exercises in normal ways. Then try to identify exactly what is holding you back and find out what mistakes you are making and when.

Motivation is commitment to one activity and minimizing time spent on other activities. Commitment is environment aligned with focus on the activity. Making habit of daily focus. See instruction on making habits. Fixed time and place. Get enough sleep and limit focus session to one hour. Discipline is environment. Willpower is a behavior based on environment, not an attribute.

On-The-Job-Training  (OTJT)
On the job training is the practice-driven mindset
of “learning while real work gets done.”

OTJT is how expert performers work – they constantly practice and seek out ways to hone their skills.

Feedback-driven practice
Top Gun
Create Top Gun Training to test the experts on the real world challenges and give them feedback and areas to improve. This is how to make them better and give them feedback.

Identify repetitive errors and correct them by changing the practice or creating a programmed exercise.

Regular objectives must be set at just above current level of performance.

Representations (knowledge) of larger systems are built larger over time by accomplishing objectives of increasing difficulty.

Teacher
Find someone who has done what you want to do, or who has gained the skills that you want to gain and do what they did.

Program your competency
Identify professional development programs that are most similar to deliberate practice. See Art Turock from Kirkland, WA

Get out of your comfort zone to practice new skills and abilities.

Planning for an objective
Pre-solution plans are necessary for getting started. But, after the start, the plan is less important than being observant of the changing situation and then reacting to information and then adjusting to the changing situation – but don’t quit,

Ideas gleaned from book
Maybe E-prime is useful for professional development?
E-prime in the corporate sphere .
If absolutes are good for marketing and sales they are detrimental for professional development.

Example, “We are the experts,” but that is false and we quote 5 hours for a job that takes us 8, with the idea that we will be experts in that area next time, but the next time might be two years away and the consultant who works on it might not have access to the original consultant nor would he guess that the solution materials are available because our leadership piss on collaboration. Lawyers don’t give away free hours for ascending a new learning curve for some new area they must study up on. They will bill you for finding the lawyer with the expertise and or bill you for learning it. Clients don’t want to pay for that, but clients don’t want to pay for anything at all,

Learning Teams
3 Consultants – primary plus teacher and buddy

Battle Buddy
Concept in army is that every skill is improved when done in pairs – consultants paired with scheduled review and feedback even if other consultant wasn’t involved – having 1 more person hear about existence of solution materials makes 2 and that is better than only 1. The general aim is to improve what the client gets, improve the deliverable and service quality. Teacher can be involved ad hoc as available and on regular review
Solution Log
Have a formalized structure of notes that a consultant uses while working on an issue. The buddy can use this to identify repetitive errors, etc.

Work Log
Consultants log every investigation step and error they make as they work on an issue.

It isn’t mentioned in the book, but E-Prime is a form of English lacking all forms of the verb “to be” (such as “is”, “are”, “was”, “were” etc.).

There are a number of other podcasts and summaries of this book that you should look to if you are interested in getting better at what you do.

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