What is the Formula for Awards Success?

Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success enjoys its 10th birthday this year. It was in 2008 that Gladwell published his analysis of what differentiates the world's highest achievers from the rest of us. Gladwell studied the achievements of the Beatles, Bill Gates, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and others in hopes of identifying factors that everyone could use to achieve top performance.

Outliers has become notorious because, in addition to other factors, Gladwell endorsed the "10,000-hour rule." The rule is based on the work of psychologist Anders Ericsson, who has found that high achievers in many fields have something in common: They've invested 10,000 hours in practice. Tennis pros practice serves, violinists practice scales, and so on.

Gladwell has been widely criticised for implying that one can master a field by practising for 10,000 hours. Ericsson himself has spoken out against that notion, noting that 10,000 hours is an average and that additional factors are necessary for transforming competence into mastery.

Ericsson and other researchers embrace a more nuanced view of building great performance, a view that valorises feedback, focused practice and teaching others. In combination, these three factors help practitioners in widely varying fields traverse the path from novice to competence to excellence. Researchers have validated this formula in study after study.

This framework for achieving high performance helps us understand how entering awards programmes helps companies boost their game and why high achievers continue to win awards year after year.

A reputable awards programme valorises feedback. It gives participants specific, rigorous, written evaluations that they can employ in assessing and refining their work. The more detailed the feedback, the better.

It's also critical that feedback is valid, of course. For an awards campaign to contribute to the overall pursuit of excellence, you want to be sure that feedback is provided by true experts in the field, practitioners and theoreticians whose insights have stood the test of time.

The second factor is focused practice. That means using the feedback from judges. High-performance companies and teams value judges' feedback, win or lose, and use it to adjust processes and procedures. Nothing helps a team achieve its potential like discovering and employing best practices.

Finally, experts say that teaching others is a key element of achieving top performance. The best awards programmes allow winners to share their expertise during open sessions and to serve as faculty members in training programmes for other teams. High achievers can even be drafted as judges who can help train the next generation of high achievers.

Outliers made its debut in the number-one slot on the bestseller lists of the New York Times and the Globe and Mail. It has remained in print for a decade, selling more than 1.6 million hardcover and paperback copies - plus many more copies in Kindle and other eBook formats. The book's success demonstrates that companies, teams, and individuals are interested and motivated to achieve higher levels of success. You might not achieve mastery with 10,000 hours of practice, as Gladwell suggested, but according to expert studies, entering the right awards programme may be just the boost you need.


The UK Complaint Handling Awards 2019 is currently open for entries and is perfect for organisations who care about providing the best customer service possible. Every company receives complaints, but serious companies use this feedback to raise their standards and encourage customer loyalty and advocacy. To see the categories and enter the awards click here.

Awards International recently received the Gold Trust Mark, the highest standard of awards accreditation, from The Independent Awards Standards Council. Entrants are therefore assured that the awards are fair with the most transparent scoring system possible, with an independent panel of judges assessing the entries. All finalists receive a feedback report after the awards finals to support business development and improvement.