How Mentoring Can Unlock the Power of Deliberate Practice

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Research psychologist Anders Ericsson’s concept of Deliberate Practice is the theoretical framework that underpins much of our understanding of human performance. Ericsson studied expert performers in a range of endeavours to understand how people become great at what they do. He discovered thoughtful solitary learning is critical to talent and expertise. Anders argues that many characteristics once believed to reflect intrinsic talent are actually the result of focused practice.

Speaking with Susan Cain, Ericsson elaborated by saying:

“In Deliberate Practice, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Deliberate Practice is best conducted on one’s own because it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. In an ideal world, you’d also have the guidance of a coach or teacher so you don’t get stuck.”

Getting stuck and feeling frustrated in the workplace is how we know we have encountered an obstacle to higher performance. The discomfort is inherent to learning a new skill. When we hit a snag in our workplace learning, studies show targeting the challenge with a mentor is the most effective approach. This process channels the team member’s efforts to the areas most needing work, making the learning process more efficient.

The process of stepping out of our work and sharing our challenges with a mentor to broaden our pool of ideas and then returning to reflect on the points of discussion facilitates creative thinking, problem solving and deep learning. This is the power of the one-on-one learning model.

In large organisations, it can be difficult to find the right mentor and the time to address team members’ individual needs and enhance performance. Technology can now streamline the process.

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform helps team leaders to match mentees with mentors dynamically, using everyday connected devices. Team members create digital profiles of their skills, experience and achievements. Leaders set learning and development goals. Algorithms impartially match seasoned expertise with development needs and guide mentoring pairs through meetings and objectives.

Technology can now enhance the one-on-one learning model by addressing individual learning needs in the moment they are required: When team members are in the workflow. The quality of team members’ learning is directly influenced by two different approaches: one to gather ideas within the environment and the other to synthesise these inputs and change behaviour through quiet reflection.