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Quest for Expertise

How long does it take to become an expert? Generally, a 10-year rule is applied. I’ve seen this referenced in numerous books and articles, most recently in Gladwell’s new book Outliers. On a recent (long) trip, I had time to read both Outliers and Expertise and Expert Performance. The 10-year rule figures prominently in both, though the latter takes a research-focused approach. As a follow up to those two books, I enjoyed reading Quest for Expertise (via Stephen Downes). The author of the post searches for the origin of the 10-year rule and in the process, presents numerous resources on expertise.
The topic of expertise will become more important to consider. The creation of sites like Wikipedia raises the profile of amateurs while also questioning the role experts play in “everyone creates, everyone participates” environments.


  1. glen wrote:

    Is it coincidental that 10 years is about the time it takes to earn a PhD?

    Followed up on one of your earlier recommended readings.
    Evetts, J., Mieg, H., & Felt, U. (2006). Professionalization, scientific expertise, and elitism – a sociological perspective. In Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 105-127). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

    Very interesting article and the theory of counter-elites seems to have fit and grab explaining some current events. ” Counter-elites play a decisive role in the generation of cultural change in modern societies and as an element of their checks and balances.” The authors go on to describe the way that the counter elites become the new elites and one would presume the cycle continues.
    I see Wikipedia as a convivial tool that facilitates this critical function of knowledge creation. Interesting to see that the submission guidelines for the Landes Bioscience journal requires that authors first begin a Wikipedia article where their data and presentation are displayed for public scrutiny.
    IMO this is a marvelous development.

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Alexandre wrote:

    Thanks for the trackback and comments!
    From your reading of Outliers, what impression did you get of Gladwell’s attitude toward this “rule?” Does he seem to accept it as proven? Does he give sufficient credit to the literature on expertise?
    The Cambridge Handbook did come up in my searches and I’ll try to get access to it, after the break (once the libraries open). My experience with other Cambridge Handbooks has been quite positive, which probably doesn’t mean anything. In this one, I’m assuming that the “10-year rule” is put in perspective, right?

    Thanks again for your help!

    Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  3. Gladstone wrote:

    Here’s Seth Godin’s (recent) take on 10k (also on Enkerli’s blog): You win when you become the best in the world, however “best” and “world” are defined by YOUR market => OK, it matters most of all that you reach YOUR effort threshold, realized how far away it was and chose to push through it. []

    Monday, December 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  4. Hi George. At a talk by Howard Gardner about 18 months ago, he said that in music composition the time to achieve mastery had been cut in half to 5 years due to technology….

    Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

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  1. Answers on Expertise « Disparate on Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 6:32 pm

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