The Making of an Expert

Here is an excerpt from a “classic” article written by the late K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely for Harvard Business Review (July–August 2007) and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient. The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice—practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. You will need a well-informed coach not only to guide you through deliberate practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself. Above all, if you want to achieve top performance as a manager and a leader, you’ve got to forget the folklore about genius that makes many people think they cannot take a scientific approach to developing expertise. We are here to help you explode those myths.

Let’s begin our story with a little wine.

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Before practice, opportunity, and luck can combine to create expertise, the would-be expert needs to demythologize the achievement of top-level performance, because the notion that genius is born, not made, is deeply ingrained. It’s perhaps most perfectly exemplified in the person of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is typically presented as a child prodigy with exceptional innate musical genius. Nobody questions that Mozart’s achievements were extraordinary compared with those of his contemporaries. What’s often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert—he became one.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

The late K. Anders Ericsson was the Conradi Eminent Scholar of Psychology at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. I urge you to check out Anders’ Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (2017).
Michael J. Prietula ( is a professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, in Atlanta, and visiting research scholar at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, in Pensacola, Florida.
Edward T. Cokely ( is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in Berlin.


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