Good read: Malcolm Gladwell got us wrong

I’ve been posting research on the infamous 10000 hours rule (check here, here and here). Now, in a new book “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise”, the original researchers reply on Gladwell who used their research: Malcolm Gladwell got us wrong: Our research was key to the 10,000-hour rule, but here’s what got oversimplified.

Some excerpts from the book/article:

“Unfortunately, this rule — which is the only thing that many people today know about the effects of practice — is wrong in several ways. (It is also correct in one important way, which we will get to shortly.) First, there is nothing special or magical about ten thousand hours. Gladwell could just as easily have mentioned the average amount of time the best violin students had practiced by the time they were eighteen — approximately seventy-four hundred hours — but he chose to refer to the total practice time they had accumulated by the time they were twenty, because it was a nice round number. And, either way, at eighteen or twenty, these students were nowhere near masters of the violin. They were very good, promising students who were likely headed to the top of their field, but they still had a long way to go when at the time of the study. Pianists who win international piano competitions tend to do so when they’re around thirty years old, and thus they’ve probably put in about twenty thousand to twenty-five thousand hours of practice by then; ten thousand hours is only halfway down that path.”

“Second, the number of ten thousand hours at age twenty for the best violinists was only an average. Half of the ten violinists in that group hadn’t actually accumulated ten thousand hours at that age. Gladwell misunderstood this fact and incorrectly claimed that all the violinists in that group had accumulated over ten thousand hours.”

“Third, Gladwell didn’t distinguish between the type of practice that the musicians in our study did — a very specific sort of practice referred to as “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 — and any sort of activity that might be labeled “practice.”



Filed under At work, Education, Myths, Review

2 responses to “Good read: Malcolm Gladwell got us wrong

  1. Some salient points here. Also worth mentioning that 10000 hours is like practicing for 3 hours a day 7 days a week for 10 years. That’s a ton of effort which is why I guess so few people ever attain mastery.

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