Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is Gladwell Wrong on "His" 10,000 Hours Theory

In one of his classic books of distilling complex scholarly research into infinitely accessible pop culture theorizing, Ideas Guru Malcolm Gladwell made a splash with his book Outliers that basically quantified "mastery" of anything as being the result of 10,000 hours of practice. There was a lot of great scholarly support for this theory - but now it is coming into question. Many researchers are arguing that pursuers of mastery need to "Ditch the 10,000 Rule."

Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel aren't the first to challenge the theory, and Gladwell's promotion of it. Writer David Epstein argued as much in his best-selling book The Sports Gene:Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Epstein and others have presented numerous examples of people who reach mastery outside a quantifiable certainty of 10,000 hours. And, granted, it should be noted that Gladwell was promoting research that saw the 10K as "an average." But in our data crazy world, filled with "Tiger Mothers" who will chain their kids to a piano for hours, it's worth noting the flexibility in this "rule."

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