Imagine this.

You have a professional soccer team. The average player costs around $ 35 000 000. They have rocket high salaries and you need to acquire more money every month just to keep em playing.

Now, you bought them for a decent price, and you would like to get some kick back of your investment in the long term. Maybe, that means you would like to win the series, sell of some of them at the end of the season etc.

To protect your team and investment, you don’t want them to become injured, sick or depressed. You’ve actually gone so far as to hire a nutritionist, doctor, chiropractor and various other people to make sure they stay on top of their game.

During game time you have the best coaches money can buy. They also have an extra team of scouts, looking for new talent and scouting the competition.

You have approximately 3 ways of generating money off your team.

  1. Your players generate money through playing games. Cup, series and friendly games. That is where their value is reevaluated and you win price money.
  2. Your team becomes successful and the value of the team rises.
  3. Advertising during game play on television.

Now imagine you banned practice.

ALL PRACTICE

All players need to play games. All the time. If someone wanted to practice on something, the player need to ensure it does not interfere with eating and resting schedules. It has to be off hours. Should not interfere with the rest off the team.

Your motivation for this would be:

Practice does not generate any money. It does not raise the value of the players, because they are only evaluated while playing. The team doesn’t win anything during practice, nor can you sell any advertising on television during practice.

WAIT… say WHAT?

Most people coming into any profession knows that there’s a path to excellence in that area. There’s no question that soccer players like Zlatan, artists like Madonna, painters, chess players et al do some kind of practice to keep their game sharp. As a matter of fact, practice is most of what they do.

Me as an example

When I grew up I used to play the guitar. After a couple of years fiddling, I became quite good. I ended up going to school at Södra Latins Gymnasium in Stockholm, playing the classical guitar. During my years there I practiced about 3-8 hours per day. Every day. All week. For 3 years.

In comparison to that, I think I did around 20 concerts. I played in various ensembles, a guitar quartet, and solo. Most pieces range between 3-5 minutes of play. Which would roughly total a hefty 60-120 min of game play. 1 to 2 hours in 3 years!

I think some mathematics would be suitable here.

Say I was a lazy student. Practicing only the bare minimum and hitting around 2 hour day. That would give 14 hours per week. 50 weeks per year (hey you need some breaks as well right?) would give 700 hours per year. For 3 years, 2100 hours.

Oh, so that ratio is quite interesting. Even for a lazy student. 1-2 hours of game per 2100 hours of practice!

Now I know per fact that most professional musicians practice around 4-8 hours per day. Most of them have done so since they were 4-6 years old. I also know that a lot of the professional athletes, artists out there are in the same ball park. Most of them, specially athletes, don’t race more than a couple of times per year, and at a fraction of the practice time1.

The dysfunction of the everyday company

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. - Steve Jobs”

I think there’s something hidden between the lines in that quote. I believe Steve expect smart people to practice. I believe that is as given as gravity. Without practice skills degenerate. You don’t advance and motivation falters. Smart people know that they need to sharpen their knifes.

Given this:

  • How come we don’t practice2 at work?
  • How come, most programmers I know (me included) are only “half good” at touch typing?
  • What would happen if not practicing, say 80% of the time, was considered misconduct3?
  • When was the last time you practiced reading?

I spy problems

The more I think about this I realize it is a to grand topic for one post. Therefore I will dedicate a couple of posts to the subject. I will dig into deliberate personal and team practice, degradation of learned skills, organizational wide practice.

  1. Most athletes also do practice races. So that they prepare for the ones they really want to win, with as similar conditions as possible.

  2. Yes I know, good people practice, but that mostly occur after hours.

  3. It would be for Zlatan remember?