ART OF GRAPHIX: Practice for difference rather than perfection

Someone once said: “Practice makes perfect”. But is this really true? Does it make us experts or picture perfect? Perhaps the jury is still out on this but, for argument’s sake, let us all agree that this is based on a flawed premise because perfection does not exist.

Indeed, repetition accounts for part of what makes people good at what they do, but this is not enough. An important part of the equation is missing. For it may be better to say that: “Conscious practice makes perfect.”

As designers, we all aim at getting better at what we do. We surf the Internet daily for hours trying to find useful tips and tricks to enhance our design skills. But what if we spent less time surfing for inspiration, and more time creating and designing? Would that make us perfect or better?

Researchers recently analysed the results of 88 different studies on practice and performance in areas such as music, sports and education. All these studies involved looking at people who were acquiring a new skill, and assessed factors including how much they practiced and how good they eventually became at their new skill.

Just how big a role did regular practice/training really play? Well, practicing a new skill did play an important role in the learning process. However, researchers found that practice alone only accounted for an average of 12 percent of individual differences in performance across various domains.

Practice accounted for 26 percent of the variance in games; 21 percent in music; and 18 percent for sports. But when it came to education and workplace professions, practice made far less of a difference, accounting for just four percent of the variance.

So if practice is only one piece of the puzzle, what other factors contribute to learning and skill development? Our overall intelligence; how early you start learning a new skill; memory capacity; and innate talent. The right kind of practice is another element that really matters when trying to maximise learning and increase skills.

Another important influence is mental practice, which involves imagining the procedures you must go through to perform a task. For example, a pianist might mentally practice a piece of music, while an actor might mentally rehearse his role in a play. The way a person practices influences how well a skill is learned as well.

So, how can you practice in a way that will effectively foster skills development? Some ideas include:

• Spend time early on becoming familiar with the process and tools you need to perform the skill

• Vary your practice sessions early on to help maintain interest and enjoyment

• While practice might not necessarily make perfect, it is an important piece of the learning puzzle

• Do not be afraid to make mistakes; research has shown that optimal learning often requires making errors

• Exploration is an important part of learning any new skill

By balancing methods that include mental rehearsal, hands-on practice, exploration and other forms of learning, you can optimise skill development and become a more efficient learner. As a final point, while practice will not mean perfect for all, it will surely make us better. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories rather than regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.

NB: Columnist welcomes feedback at deedee21bastian@gmail.com. ABOUT COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally-trained graphic designer/marketing co-ordinator with qualifications of MSc, BSc, ASc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of The Bahamas, Nova Southeastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas, and Certified Life Coach.