Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool — one of whom is the world's leading expert on how expertise develops (Ericsson) — have critiqued Malcolm Gladwell's popularization of the 10,000 Hours Rule in a Salon article, adapted from their new book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

 

 

 Here are the main points from their article:

  1. "Gladwell did get one thing right, and it is worth repeating because it’s crucial: becoming accomplished in any field in which there is a well-established history of people working to become experts requires a tremendous amount of effort exerted over many years. It may not require exactly ten thousand hours, but it will take a lot."
  2. "There is nothing special or magical about ten thousand hours." It can be more or less. Indeed, in some fields it may take twice as long to reach world-class status.
  3. The number of hours to become an expert varies from field to field.
  4. It's not just about practice (or time spent in an activity). Rather, it is about a very specific form of practice — "deliberate practice, which involves constantly pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, following training activities designed by an expert to develop specific abilities, and using feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them."
  5. There are zero research studies that show that anyone who puts in some requisite number of hours (be it 10,000 or less or more), will achieve preeminent expertise. And, let me add my conclusion: There may be — indeed there are likely to be — other factors that influence the development of expertise, including such things as innate abilities, health, environmental stressors, related experiences, nurturance, et cetera. As the authors stress, not everyone can become an expert in a particular field.
  6. Almost always, people can radically improve their performance in a skill through deliberate practice.

Anders Ericsson is amazing — having been doing great research for decades, putting in certainly more than 10,000 hours, I must think. I've just ordered the book, and I recommend that you order it too!

And here is a nice audio clip with Ericsson.