Kathy Sierra on Making Users Awesome, Part 3

In the book, Badass: Making Users Awesome, Kathy Sierra analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about designing and sustaining successful products and services.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

In this section, Kathy discusses the approaches for building skills.

The first common attribute across all domains in which people become experts is that those experts practice better. Experts practice more effectively than experienced non-experts using the same amount of practice time.

Most skill-building approaches involve going from [A] Can’t do (but need to) to [B] Can do with effort, to, finally, [C] Mastered (reliable/automatic). This approach alone is insufficient for three reasons.

First, this sequence shows only skills that move from [A] to [B] to [C]. Experts have some skills that can move from [A] directly [C].

Second, experts never have an empty [A] list. They are adding new or refining existing skills all the time.

Finally, experts move skills from [B] to [C] but sometimes must also move skills backward from [C] to [B]. Unconscious/automated skills in [C] are often the cause of “intermediate blues.” Also, skills not de-automated, even when used regularly, will still deteriorate.

When experts practice more effectively, it means they do Deliberate Practice. The Deliberate Practice method means taking a skill and move it through the [A][B][C] stages swiftly.

Most of us try to practice too many things simultaneously instead of nailing one thing at a time. When we have too many skills that are stuck in the [B] stage and with very few skills in [C], we severely limit our skill-building effectiveness.

The goal of deliberate practice should be to design practice exercises that will take a fine-grained task from unreliable to 95% reliability, within one to three 45-90-minute sessions. If we cannot get to 95% reliability, we should stop trying. Either change the exercise or redesign the sub-skill.

Projects and tutorials are not deliberate practice. Projects are an excellent learning tool, but they are more about discovery and problem-solving than a reliable skill-building method.

Tutorials can give us a good feel for the skill we are learning and provide more context. Tutorials are valuable, but they are not the reliable skill-building method of Deliberate Practice.