What does it take to become an expert?

Workers At Desks In BusyThe recent research shows that it takes about 10 years and 10,000 hours of “Deliberate Practice” with good coaching and a good support system. This is opposed to the idea that it takes innate talent or skill.

This article is based on the “The Making of an Expert” Harvard business review; 1997, Developing Talent in Young People, by Benjamin Bloom, and The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 2006 by Cambridge University Press and edited by K. Anders Ericsson


The Making of an expert article states that “New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill.”

Bloom’s work proved that all the superb performers he investigated had practiced intensively, had studied with devoted teachers and had been supported enthusiastically by their families. The only exception is in sports where height or weight matter.

Examples such as Tiger Woods’ approach to golf – deliberate practice focusing on skills that are least strong. His practicing has sometimes been called “U.S. Marine like”. Many people think of Tiger as a prodigy, but he started at 3 years old, under very good coaching, and practiced extremely hard and regularly.

A similar story can be told of Mozart. He also started very young, studied under excellent mentors, and worked exceptionally hard. Most of the work he is famous for came after many dedicated years of learning and work.

What does this mean to me?

So what does this mean to the average person? The answer is that to gain expertise in an area or to become an expert is less based on inborn talent than it is of deliberate practice under the correct mentoring, coaching, or training.

While 10,000 hours and 10 years may seem insurmountable, you will see the results of your efforts in a much shorter time. You do not need to have the goal to become an expert in a particular area, but just may want to see measurable improvements.

“The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts” (The Making of an Expert)

Three things you must do:

Deliberate practice – Honestly consider the items you are not proficient at and practice these. The examples used in the articles above include golf. Many golfers practice at driving ranges, but how many focus on where each ball will precisely land. Humans have a tendency to practice things we are already good at. It is more fun and less work.

Expert Coaches and Mentors – These people do not need to be people who you follow in every way, but in the area you are working to master.

Devote time – The deliberate practice takes focus and time to develop the desired outcome.

How does this apply to management systems, internal auditing, project management...?

How does this apply to ISO 9001, ISO / TS 16949, ISO 14001 etc... Management systems. Many people conducting internal audits, creating management system documentation and organizing and pulling the management system together do not have a great deal of expertise on all of the requirements.

There are some area’s where expertise may be less important, such as recreation and entertainment, but there are others where a lack of expertise can cause ongoing issues.

This applies fully to a businesses quality and management processes and documentation. If these are not documented and implemented in the best manner possible, the effects are felt everyday into the future and lead to efficiency issues and quality issues that regularly re-occur.

Good coaching and mentoring

All of us at Management Solutions Group have around 10 years of Registrar experience along with over 10 years of implementing and auditing experience. WE have also spent significant time together over the years developing and improving our implementation tools and coaching each other on our techniques.

Put this to use in your organization and your own development plans.

Other important points about expertise, research has shown that many self evaluations of expertise were not reliable. The best way to determine and evaluate expertise is through objective testing and evaluation.

For management systems this can be done through comparing internal findings to external findings. Did internal audits find more issues than external, were the internal findings petty nonconformances or do they truly help to drive improvement in the organization.

How does the documented management system compare to other companies. Do you have more or less paperwork; does it add value to the quality of your products and services? Does it help make you more efficient when re-organizing or adding staff?

With sports, business, and technical positions, there are more and more proven methods to practice and improve. There are also many fads or methods sold with the only purpose of making money. You need to do a little research to ensure you find the correct methods, and then apply these in your own growth plan with goals and objectives.

How might this apply to your specific job or your life goals?

Here are the specific steps:
  • Evaluate your job and your goals
  • What are you an expert in?
  • What do you want to grow in? (Not necessarily with the intent to be an expert, but maybe just to become competent in a new area)
  • Do you have a good coach or mentor?
  • Is there training available?
  • How can you deliberately practice?


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