A simple strategy of the talent hotbeds: chunking

Deep practice feels a bit like exploring a dark and unfamiliar room. You start slowly, you bump into furniture, stop, think, and start again. Slowly, and a little painfully, you explore the space over and over, attending to errors, extending your reach into the room a bit further each time, building a mental map until you can move through it quickly intuitively. the instinct to slow down and break skills into their components is universal.

We heard it a billion times while we were growing up, from parents and coaches who echoed the old refrain “Just take it one step at a time.”  But what I didn't understand until I visited the talent hotbeds was just how effective that simple, intuitive strategy could be.

In the talent hotbeds I visited, the chunking takes place in three dimensions. First, the participants look at the task as a whole-- as one big chunk, the megacircuit.  Second, they divide it into its smallest possible chucks. Third, they play with time, slowing the action down, then speeding it up, to learn its inner architecture.

People in the hotbeds deep-practice the same way a good movie director approaches a scene--one instant panning back to show the landscape, The next zooming in to examine a bug crawling on a leaf in slo-mo.

Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code