Human Resources



Practice doesn't always make perfect new research damning the 10,000 hour rule shows

Practice makes perfect? Not necessarily

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Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “10,000 hour” rule stipulates that in order to become the master of any skill, one must practice for at least that many hours.

In his bestselling book, Outliers, Gladwell said this one trait is what separates the truly successful people – such as The Beatles and Bill Gates – from the moderately successful people. But new research has discovered this might not actually be true.

The study from Princeton University has found the amount of practice accumulated over time does not play as big a role as previously thought when looking at the differences in skill or performance.

In fact, practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance. But what’s really interesting is that the percentage difference in skill or performance hugely depends on the domain.

• In games, practice made for a 26% difference
• In music, it made for 21% difference
• In sports, an 18% difference
• In education, a 4% difference
• In professions, just a 1% difference

To discover this, researchers examined practices and performances in domains such as music, games, sports, professions, and education and of them, 88 met specific criteria, including a measure of accumulated practice and a measure of performance, and an estimate of the magnitude of the observed effect.

They then did a “meta-analysis” of these 88 studies, to find out whether specific patterns emerged. Nearly all the studies showed a positive relationship between practice and performance – and the more people practiced, the higher their level of performance.

However, the difference – while important – was nowhere near as high as what previous studies had suggested.

“Deliberate practice is unquestionably important, but not nearly as important as proponents of the view have claimed,” said Brooke Macnamara, psychological scientist at Princeton University, in a press release.

Image: Shutterstock

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