Deliberate practice is the way to build a brand

Earlier this year I was following links from one article to another and found myself on a blog by James Clear where he talks about an idea he calls deliberate practice.

In the blog he says:

“Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.”

It’s a concept that dovetails into other articles I’ve written, where I focus on the need to be deliberate and conscious in what you do to build the brand result you want. But the kind of deliberate practice James mentions goes a layer deeper.

Being deliberate and conscious are important starting points. Are you using your identity foundations to help you choose the right things to do and thinking through how you do them? Do they help you achieve your purpose? Do they reflect your values?

Don’t answer so quickly. We all have pockets of actions and decision that could use a bit of scrutiny. And that’s where I see great value in the idea of deliberate practice. Even within small everyday actions we’ve done hundreds of times, there are opportunities to get better. (To read more about the impact of little things click here).

For example, if you’re in retail you have little choice — stock, shipping, and customer service are all non-negotiable parts of what you have to do. Each one has multiple pieces. Deliberate practice helps you break down what we’re doing into pieces and parts and scrutinise each bit.

Let’s take shipping. Before your products even get on the road, you’ve got to decide which shipping and delivery company to use. What promises did you make about how quickly orders would be delivered and can they meet them? Now you’ve got to make sure the product matches the order. Then pack it up so it will survive the trip.

Maybe add a personal touch or two. You could alert the buyer their order is on the way. And then each of those pieces breaks down again.

For each bit you can ask, is that the best way (remember best practice is most practice — you want ‘us practice’)? If we tweak this and move that will the whole thing work better? Try it out. More of this, less of that. Repeat.

It’s a never ending process.

Stoic philosopher Epictetus from discourses observed:

“That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite…”

When there is a deep commitment to ongoing learning, practice and training deeply embedded into the most mundane corners, the results can feel almost magical. That’s deliberate practice at play, and what I talk about as the deeply unsexy work of building a brand.

What parts of your organisation could benefit from a bit of deliberate practice?

See you next week.


Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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