Experts Are Made, Not Born

Jose Raul Capablanca's most famous feat was when he played over a 100 games simultaneously against professional chess players.

Corporate recruiters, sports agents and casting directors spend countless hours traveling and searching for the next undiscovered “great” in their fields. In doing so, they’re wasting their time. You may be, too.

Experts are made, not born. Your parents were right when they made you practice the violin or juggle the soccer ball thousands of times. Malcolm Gladwell captured this perfectly in “Outliers: The Story of Success,” when he declared, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” In the book, he promotes the notion of the 10,000 hour rule—commit to excellence, dedicate the time, and you can become an expert in anything.

Last week, I presented 4-Color Hybrid Imaging to an agency that specializes in loyalty marketing. After the meeting, my team informed me that my presentation was the sharpest they had seen from me. It’s unsurprising that it has improved. I’ve made the presentation more than a dozen of times. I’ve practiced. I’ve noted what works, and what doesn’t. I’ve adapted, I’ve refined, and I’ve become so fluent with the material that I focus on the audience, not the material itself.

And it all came from practice.

Herb Simon is the father of much of the thought on artificial intelligence, information processing, and decision making. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1975 “for his pioneering research into the decision-making process within economic organizations.” He determined that there is too much data in the world for us to process. Thus, we must devise a way to see only what is important. We achieve this through pattern recognition and representations.

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as our brains imagine them to be through patterns we recognize. We know more than we can say, and the difference between experts and novices is that experts see only what is important, while novices are still working through the patterns.

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