Becoming an Expert

Expert (by Pete Prodoehl)I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers last week and it gave me some interesting things to think about.

There is a common understanding that it takes 10,000 hours of focused study in a given endeavour to become an expert in said endeavour. (This is based, in part, on a study done in “the early 1990s by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music.” [Outliers, chapter 2, section 2]).

I spend much of my day reading about new ideas in web development. It may seem boring to some, but I like it. It also may seem as though I’m not working—I’m obviously not producing output for a customer—but I’m gaining knowledge about my craft that will allow me to serve my next customer better, more efficiently, or more effectively.

Unfortunately, I feel sometimes that my colleagues do not feel the same way. They seem happy to produce the same output, day after day, with no regard for a better way of doing things.

In either case, it would seem that we’re all on our way to becoming experts; that is, we’re all on our way to putting in our 10,000 hours. But experts in what? It seems to me that I’m becoming an expert in how to do things, and others are becoming experts in how things were done.

In my opinion, this is why I don’t have access to a flying car or a hoverboard.