The Good Old Training Montage

Posted by  Kevin Bishop —January 31, 2011
Filed in Fun

Did you ever think the good old movie training montage, found in such classic’s as The Karate Kid, Team America, or the Rocky movies, could beautifully sum up all the elements of deliberate practice?

I have been doing some work over the last few weeks on developing a ‘Deliberate Practice Program’ that will help to make learning stick even more for participants in our programs such as Storytelling for Business Leaders.

As my mind was very much tuned into the whole area of ‘practice’, I watched a scene from The Kings Speech last week with added interest. The scene was a montage where Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) and Bertie (Colin Firth) were undertaking a series of exercises and drills to help the future King overcome his speech impediment. What I realised is that I was actually watching all the elements of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is a concept outlined by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, who is is widely recognised as the world’s leading researcher on expertise. He has studied how people become experts in a whole range of fields, and looked for the consistent attributes of what they do to make them achieve these superior levels of performance. The consistent feature they have identified is not some natural born talent, or the hours they practice, but how they practice – specifically how they undertake deliberate practice.

The key attributes of deliberate practice are:

  • Repetition – Performing the task occurs repetitively rather than at its naturally occurring frequency
  • Focused feedback: – Task performance is evaluated by a coach during performance
  • Breaking the task down into its parts and practicing these individually and then as a whole
  • Immediacy of performance – After corrective feedback on task performance there is an immediate repetition so that the task can be performed more in accordance with what is required/expected
  • Stop and start– because of the repetition and feedback, deliberate practice is typically seen as a series of short performances
  • Active coaching – Typically a coach must be very active during deliberate practice, monitoring performance, assessing adequacy, and controlling the structure of training
  • Emphasis on difficult aspects – Deliberate practice will focus on more difficult aspects, for example, when flying an airplane normally only a small percentage of the flight time is taken up by takeoffs and landings. In deliberate practice simulators, however, a large portion of the time will be involved in landings and takeoffs
  • Focus on areas of weakness – in real life situations people are striving to achieve the task and therefore are unlikely to do the things they see as a weakness or they think will stop them achieving. Deliberate practice therefore allows time and space to practise these elements
  • Work vs. play – deliberate practice feels more like work and is more effortful than casual performance

Now, watch the following clip from the movie ‘Cool Runnings‘ and tell me how many of these elements exist?

About  Kevin Bishop


  1. Excellent post and comes at a time when I am dealing with a problem that this can best resolve.
    The rate at which Indian organizations are growing, and the dearth of experienced managers/leaders is a huge problem today. The pressure on HR/OD to quickly develop individuals for middle and top management roles is immense, and ordinary training etc. will not suffice.
    Deliberate Practice is one way we can use, to help people come up to speed quick!

Comments are closed.