Peak, Chapter 5: Deliberate Practice on the Job, by Patrick

            Unfortunately, the fifth chapter of Peak is probably not the most applicable for parents of music students.  Yet, the chapter could certainly be pertinent to parents’ professional lives.  The chapter tries to answer the question of what deliberate practice would look like within the professional world.  As it turns out, this is not such an easy question to answer.

            When you look at many professions, it can be difficult to determine what kind of practice goes into being successful at that particular profession.  Take business manager as an example.  How would a person construct a training regimen for business managers to improve their skill at managing a business? 

            In the introduction to this chapter, Ericsson explains that such a professional training program should look something like the Top Gun school that the Navy uses to train fighter pilots.  Think Tom Cruise as Maverick if you want to improve your skill as a business manager!  To explain simply, in the Top Gun program, up-and-coming pilots face off against experienced expert pilots in mock combat.  After each mock combat session, the experts help the younger pilots see their mistakes and strategize ways to improve.  Ericsson sees this as a model for how other professions can use the principles of deliberate practice to train employees.  He explains in detail how similar ideas have been used recently by radiologists to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses.

            Perhaps the most interesting part of this chapter to me concerns experience.  Common sense would suggest that experience leads to better results.  When choosing anything, people want to go with the most experienced candidate.  Well, in study after study performed on doctors and nurses, this common sense notion has been proven untrue.  Indeed, more experienced doctors and nurses don’t have better health outcomes than younger, more inexperienced doctors and nurses.  And it all comes back to deliberate practice!  Because it has been so long since the experienced doctors have practiced deliberately, they not only haven’t improved, but they’ve actually gotten worse! 

            While not the most relevant in terms of helping music students, this chapter gives me hope for the future.  I make no secret about my goal to be the best piano teacher in the area.  And this chapter gives me a blueprint for using the principles of deliberate practice to improve my own teaching.  This gives me confidence that I’ll be able to reach my goal!  How can you use the principles of deliberate practice to improve at your job?