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Becoming an Expert

10,000 hours.  This is the approximate amount of time of deliberate practice necessary to attain world class expertise in a field according to the study by K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer.  When psychologists refer to deliberate practice, it means doing so in a way that pushes one’s skill set as much as possible. This “10,000 hour rule” was a concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

Gladwell, a gifted author and storyteller who makes points and teaches lessons in his writing by looking closely at various case studies, used the rise of The Beatles and Bill Gates (among others), to the tops of their fields to help us understand how they achieved their expertise.  The one common denominator between the various examples, was the thousands of hours of deliberate practice they each had in their fields.  Investing time in deliberate practice requires not just the desire, passion and motivation to do so by the individual, but more importantly the opportunity to put that desire, passion and motivation to work.

A more recent study argues that deliberate practice is just one factor that is determinative of success in attaining expertise.  The study argues that the influence of deliberate practice varies across disciplines, having greater influence in disciplines with super stable structures where rules never change like tennis, chess and classical music than in disciplines with less stable structures like entrepreneurship and rock and roll where there may be little to no rules.  It is logical to expect more variables where there is less structure.  However, while there are certainly many other factors that can be determinative of success, there is no denying the value and impact of countless hours of focused, hard work.

At least that is the case, for now. Scientists have begun to discover a way to upload knowledge to the brain,  and in the not too distant future, we may all know Kung Fu after just moments of uploading.   If the hard work done to acquire knowledge can be replaced by uploading knowledge, what will be most determinative of success or expertise in a field in the future?  My hypothesis is emotional intelligence, something that has been shown to be determinative of success already, will become even more important and will be what sets people apart in a future where the time required to acquire knowledge is exponentially decreased.

Nima Shaahinfar, Purchasing and Supply Manager