Deliberate Practice: Practice Like You Play

Deliberate Practice

“Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years” (Ericsson et al., 1993).

Although this ‘deliberate practice’ process of attaining elite or excellence has been quoted in recent literature and the media as the ‘10,000 hour rule’. The importance of pushing beyond ones capabilities and limits has not been emphasised  in this reporting.  Becoming a violinist, chess and golf professional are some of the 10,000 hour guides to excellence. To maximise deliberate practice an approach that is neither short-lived nor simple and extends over a period of at least 10 years and involves optimisation within several constraints is required. No short cuts here!

Practice like you play and you will play like you practice” (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014).

“The view that merely engaging in a sufficient amount of practice, regardless of the structure of that practice, leads to maximal performance has a long and contested history. Historically genetics and natural ability were seen as reflecting a higher level of ultimate performance determined primarily by innate capacities (talent) for eminent performance. The domain-specific nature of experts’ superior performance implies that acquired knowledge and skill are important to attainment of expert performance” (Ericsson et al., 1993).

Work Training

Looking at the workplace, the traditional apprenticeship allowed a period of supervised activity to acquire an acceptable level of reliable performance. In nursing the period allowed for supernumerary time provides this settling in period to understand the work place environment and it’s complexities. In the workplace training is often repetitive to standardise interventions and rely on well-entrenched methods rather than exploring alternative methods with unknown reliability. Health and safety, time, resources and workload all constrain innovation. Consider the risk of failure or the difficulties in change management and gaining the support of the team can make deliberate practice a costly procedure, even if better outcomes are eventually achieved. But an approach where more practice, better preparation, new technology then “what is not possible today may well be tomorrow”.

Nurse Education

As we study along the higher education pathway for nurse training the national qualifications framework will provide ongoing development and expectations. At a workplace level the change of a role will extend ones capabilities and the need for further learning and training. The yearly competencies required for nursing often do not utilise ‘deliberate practice’, they remain the core of minimum standard expectations. You could be the expert nurse practitioner and doing the same training as a graduate nurse, very different levels of experience and knowledge.


Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological review, 100(3), 363.

Arets, J. (2016) 7 Gold Standards Of Deliberate Practice: Why Max Verstappen Has No Talent. E-learning Industry

Arets, J, Jennings, C. and Heijnen, V. (2016) 70:20:10 Towards 100% Performance. Maastricht: Sutler Media.

Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick. Harvard University Press.

Ericsson, A. (2016) Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.