As we’ve watched the joys of gold medal winners at this summer’s Olympic Games, we recognize their hard work and dedication to their sport. These athletes practice and practice, putting in hours daily to achieve the highest rewards offered in swimming, gymnastics, and running. Many of these young athletes are lucky enough to become household names for a few weeks or months. Although, Ryan Lochte may regret sharing a special spot in the Olympic game of name recognition, competing alongside Tonya Harding as a great Olympic goof-up.
Even so, practice is the enduring and shared quality of athletes around the world. We may view their “talent” with great admiration from our armchairs in front of the television set (as I do Ryan Lochte’s speed and strength in swimming). After all, the 100m track race is over before I can even lace up a single running shoe. I’m still adjusting my goggles by the time the 100m freestyle winner has touched the wall. But, as Geoff Colvin presents in his 2010 book, “Talent is Overrated,” practice is what really makes the difference. He argues there is no such thing as in-born talent.
Is Talent In-Born?
Colvin presents significant evidence that counters our belief in natural talent. Using examples of Tiger Woods and Jerry Rice, Colvin chronicles their hours of daily practice – practice in the basics of their skills to be an elite athlete and practice that is almost painful, certainly not fun.
Of course, most of us have heard of the “10,000 hour rule” and Colvin presents examples form chess, music and sports fields to demonstrate the validity of practice over talent. Moreover, successful artists required years of non-success, and even failure, to reach the pinnacles of their careers. The Beatles toiled for nearly 10 years before their first hit album. Even Mozart produced so-so composition for a decade before writing the scores we love and admire today.
These examples hint at dedication and hard work, just as we see with the Olympians. But, how do we apply an argument of practice vs. talent to project management or any other business function?
Basic Skills Training
In “Talent is Overrated,” Colvin relays a story of Tiger Woods’ practice regime. Tiger would drop a golf ball into a sand trap and then stomp it into the ground as deep as possible. Then, he’d work to perfect hitting the ball out of the sand trap. And, he’d repeat the exercise dozens and dozens of times. When Tiger encountered the same situation in a real game, he was prepared to tackle the situation since he had practiced and perfected the basic skills required for a successful outcome.
Likewise, chess masters study the game board and moves in depth. They read volumes of different strategies and practice the moves mentally many times before participating in a high-stakes chess match. Again, the basic skills are practiced as much as the full game.
Of course, Olympic swimmers like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky spend hours in the pool but also hours in the gym building strength and agility. Simone Biles left public school and had a private tutor so she could practice jumps, leaps, and balance on her quest for Olympic gold.
Engineers and project managers must also practice our basic skills. We must know the steps to initiate and plan a project. We must know the fundamental skills to motivate a team to accomplish great feats. We must practice communication and listening to understand the new product development needs of our customers.
However, our training is not so obvious as hours at the gym or running on the track. Engineering and project managers often demonstrate basic knowledge skills through education and experience. Instead of a gold medal worn around our necks, we proudly hang our framed credentials on our office walls – Project Management Professional (PMP®), Scrum Master (SCM™), New Product Development Professional (NPDP), and Professional Engineering Manager (PEM).
In business, engineering, and project management, our credentials demonstrate our dedication, diligent practice, and success. It takes hard work to become a PMP, SCM, NPDP, or PEM. All good Olympians have a strong coach guiding them in basic skills and training. You, too, need a great coach to guide you in gaining your professional certification. Simple-PDH offers convenient and affordable online courses in project management, new product development, and Scrum. We also offer you an easy way to maintain your certifications after you’ve passed the exam. It’s simple to study, learn, and earn. Check it out with a 50% discount for our popular Disruptive Innovation course. (Please email us at email@example.com for the discount code.)
Good luck in your quest for the gold standard!
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
by Global NP Solutions, LLC