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What Does it Take to be an Expert?

Posted April 05, 2014 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

Experts are valued in the engineering and business world. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines expert as "having or showing special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience." A second definition includes the word 'training' instead of 'having been taught.' So the question is: how much training do you need to be considered an expert?

In 2008 Malcolm Gladwell talked about the "10,000-hour rule" in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. This rule claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. For years, that was held as the standard for expert level training and experience. But a new study looks at the truth of this rule.

A study countering this rule was published last May by psychologist David Zachary Hambrick of Michigan State University in East Lansing. The study, titled "Deliberate practice: is that all it takes to become an expert?", suggests that practice explains only about a third of success among musicians and chess masters. The article caused quite a stir and prompted many replies from other psychologists including, K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University in Tallahassee who is best known for the research touted in Gladwell's book. Image Credit

Hambrick and his team looked at case studies of master musicians and chess players as well as quizzing the players on the number of hours they spend in deliberate practice (as opposed to performances or play). The data concluded that practice accounted for only 30 percent of success in music and 34 percent in chess.

The variability in practice hours devalues the 10,000-hour rule. Chess grand masters had put in an average of 10,530 hours with practice times ranging from 832 to 24,284. Musicians' efforts ranged from 10,000 to 30,000 hours.

The battle between Ericsson and Hambrick continued when Ericsson replied to the report, commenting that this kind of critique inappropriately mixes data about less-skilled folks into the analysis. Hambrick's retort is that Ericsson relied on only a few supreme performers for his studies.

Regardless of the studies done, the 10,000-hour rule is haunted by the nature verses nurture argument. "Plenty of studies suggest that aside from practice hours, individual differences help explain success", Georgia Tech's Phillip Ackerman says in Intelligence. "Such differences range from socioeconomics to coaching to I.Q."

What do you think it takes to be an expert?

Resources

Are Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hours of Practice Really All You Need?

Scientists Debunk The Myth That 10,000 Hours of Practice Makes You an Expert

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#1

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 1:05 AM

Well certainly it takes ability, both mental and physical, it takes dedication and stamina, I would add curiosity and pursuit of knowledge together with discipline and desire.....and about 20 years minimum, working in the field....

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#2

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 4:45 AM

"Ex" = "has been", as in ex-husband.
"Spurt" = "drip under pressure"

Take it from there.

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#19
In reply to #2

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/07/2014 10:02 AM

Or X = unknown quantity.

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#3

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 5:41 AM

What does it take to be an expert?

.

A sizable group of people that consider your prowess in a particular area to be formidable and worthy of respect. Perhaps a 10,000 fan rule?

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#4

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 6:30 AM

Isn't the one that did all the mistakes in a particular field of work the "Expert"?

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#5

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 11:47 AM

All it needs is for you to be less stupid than the person looking for an expert.

Personally I dislike the term, and generally find that self professed 'experts' are anything but.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 12:33 PM

Should we consider that your expert opinion? j/k

.

I do find the term 'expert' to be used far too liberally. I think the term is a useful one, though many people use it poorly and excessively.

.

I don't actually think expertise has a lot to do with a relative comparison of stupidity. Specific knowledge and intelligence are not always well correlated.

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#8
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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 1:58 PM

D'oh

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#7

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 1:30 PM

"Expert", is a make-believe character role invented by journalists, to give some back-up to their dirty lies on TV. Doesn't take much to be one. S.M.

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 4:43 PM

Interesting. Seems quite similar to a couple other promoted euphemisms:

.

Religious leaders referred to as things like 'beacons of righteousness' or 'examples of moral living'.

.

Politicians describing themselves as 'civil servants'.

.

A regrettable portion of those with the duty to protect and serve assuming the title and role of 'authorities'.

.

I realize these are just attempts to make reality as appear as appealing as possible, but sometimes our language goes a bit overboard and ends up with all the believability of a cheap whore.

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#25
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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/10/2014 1:40 PM

Correct except for one point.

The "expert" was invented by lawyers as a prop used to extract money from Insurance Companies when, for instance, an elderly woman spills a cup of coffee on herself.

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#10

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/05/2014 10:48 PM

Greetings.

First of all, you have to be at least 200 miles away from home where no one knows you to claim expert status.

Funny, then there seems to be a large number of experts beyond the 200 mile limit.

You will, in life, come in contact with a person who says He Is An Expert and you think or even say No!

And He or She Is!

He or she is that 0.01 percent of the Professing experts who really is.

I learned working with AT&T Bell Labs that they in fact had a whole bunch or experts, many who never professed but told you so by their profound knowledge and expertise.

In Search of Real Experts,

Have A Great Day,

Olie

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#11

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 12:13 AM

Time for the back of a beer coaster....

10000hrs to be an "expert"

at 8hrs/day=1250days

at 26days/mth=48mths

at11mths/yr is around 4½ yrs....

So, to be an expert you just need to finish your formal tuition......that really explains the attitudes of some graduates you meet along the way.

"Hey expert, hurry up and finish cleaning the bathroom already....and then, while I'm in there, go and find a left handed screw driver and a long weight".

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#12

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 12:17 AM

Time for the back of a beer coaster....

10000hrs to be an "expert"

at 8hrs/day=1250days

at 26days/mth=48mths

at11mths/yr is around 4½ yrs....

So, to be an expert you just need to finish your formal tuition......that really explains the attitudes of some graduates you meet along the way.

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#13

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 2:16 AM

I thought it required a stint as a commentator on CNN, Nancy Grace, or one the History Channel kook shows.

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#14
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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 3:00 AM

They're experts at acting like experts....

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#15

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 4:31 AM

If expertise is based on knowledge, most of us are never going to get there. Engineering is changing rapidly and I for one am struggling to keep up. So my progress towards being an expert is as far away as it was 10.000 hours ago. With 2 degrees and 46 years in the profession I estimate I have already done 10 times the required practice, and I am not even close. Maybe you can become an expert musician or an expert chess player, some field where the rules don't change, but I don't believe anyone came ever become an expert engineer.

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#16

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/06/2014 6:52 AM

An expert is someone extremely knowledgable in a technical field, where the main thing is having a lot of knowledge under one's belt. A virtuoso is someone who's extremely talented in a field where the main thing isn't knowledge, but skill and something beyond that, an artistic sense and a peculiar sensitivity. Expertise is about being in command; and virtuosity is at least in part about being vulnerable.

They shouldn't have included violinists in the study. The best violinists aren't "experts;" they're artists.

The Dreyfus brothers did some work for the Air Force about expertise in piloting airplanes. They were phenomenologists. The gist of their concept of expertise is having the basics down so pat that they're intuitive or unconscious, so that one's conscious attention can be focused on the particular anomalies of a situation. That seems pretty good, at least as a description for the limited purchase one can have on this question. Reading that some people believe that they can pin down the amount of expertise that can be attributed to practice to increments as precise as 30% or 34% makes me doubt the expertise of both the writer and the researchers. Some of the factors involved are discernible, specifiable, and quantifiable, and some are not.

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#17

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/07/2014 9:20 AM

The Expert, is the engineer who has to explain simple concepts to people who are unable or unwilling to understand. (Seriously, click that link. You'll thank me.)

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#20
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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/07/2014 3:22 PM

Your right: Thank you!

"I canna change the laws of physics captain!"

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#18

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/07/2014 9:48 AM

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#21

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/07/2014 4:18 PM

It isn't just the activity of 10,000 that brings mastery, or the practicing one's craft for that long. It is deeper than that. It is guided activity from someone who has mastered the craft and will a constant eye on improvement of the activity to bring about the desired result, i.e. Plan, Do, Check, Adjust.

I would never want to be considered an "expert" because when the typical person becomes an "expert" they no longer continue to learn and progress. I would rather be labeled "experienced".

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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/08/2014 10:11 AM
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#23

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/08/2014 11:02 AM

Dammit, expert at what?

I don't know about the arts, but engineering and science are changing constantly, new research filters in by way of code changes. New grads do not know their discipline well until they learn from their older peers to apply their learning to real life situations, but they know the latest developments where their peers do not.

I find this whole concept of defining the undefinable, ludicrous.

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#24

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/08/2014 1:05 PM

What do you think it takes to be an expert?

Making nearly every mistake that can be made in a very narrow field and learning from them.

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#26

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/11/2014 8:38 AM

Is the expert the specialist who knows more and more about less and less or the generalist who knows less and less about more and more?

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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/11/2014 9:24 AM

The expert is the one who comes up with the miracles.

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#28

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/11/2014 4:22 PM

An expert is one who makes statements and is not challenged.

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Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

05/02/2014 12:35 PM

Actually experts are always being challenged, especially by other experts. It's surviving those challenges that sets the experts apart from the wannabes. In some fields though, gonad size determines who the "expert" is.

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#29

Re: What Does it Take to be an Expert?

04/23/2014 8:40 AM

10 000 hours huh? Got to be too tired to be an expert after that.

In any event, as far as music and chess go, 'expert' is supplanted by 'virtuoso' and 'Grand Master'.

I propose that an expert is rather "someone who knows an awful lot about very little".

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