Focusing on strengths, radical improvement comes not from. Weaknesses, it does.
I play the guitar and there are keys (chord progressions) that I feel very comfortable playing in. Playing music in the keys I feel the most comfortable in does not really improve me as a guitar player (I’m stuck to those progressions or using a capo) in spite of the emotional satisfaction I get while playing. I’ve always spent time working on progressions that I know need work but they are rarely the focus of my practice sessions. Recently, I decided to switch things around and actually spend more time focusing on areas of weakness. A couple of things have happened as a result of this:
- I’m improving in the areas that have always been challenging to me
- I’m extremely focused now while going through practice sessions – it’s almost like I’m getting more out of the same effort
- I’ve significantly improved in the areas that I thought I was already good at
I think its quite natural for us as humans to focus on the things we do well and then give reasons (or is it excuses?) why we don’t focus on the areas where we need improvement. I encounter this daily when I’m reminded by myself (and others) that I can’t do something because it is not my “strong suit”. If you’re a sports junkie, its not uncommon to read about what star players focus on during their off-season – their weakness. Whether its getting a mid-range shoot, improving their speed or working on their movement/finishing, the best athletes continually work on the areas of their game that need improvement and are essentially holding them back. So do the best musicians, entertainers, speakers, business man, teachers etc etc. They all explicitly work on the areas of their craft that need improvement.
Working on weaknesses does not start and stop with the individual rather it must extend to the organizational unit. In the same way that individuals should focus on areas that need improvement, organizations should do the same.
As the adage goes “practice makes perfect”. The question is, what are you practicing?
*For further reading see deliberate practice.
**I hope to explore this concept further in subsequent posts.