07 May, 2010

Experts, is it a time thing?

Expert: SYNONYM - Proficient

1. having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit since I heard the discussion on some recent Fightworks Podcasts. For your reference I want to say that they were episodes 206, 207 and 208.

Caleb and Dan spoke to an mma fighter that is a purple belt in BJJ and saying that he was "an expert" in JiuJitsu.

In episode 207 -the discussion about experts resumed and Dan and Caleb brought up to a common metric that states that an expert needs 10,000 hours in a particular subject to be considered an expert.

In that podcast, Dan questioned if 10,000 hrs is a big number. There are a number of folks that would train multiple times a week and that it would take many many years to reach the number, 10,000. With that number, would there be black belts that would not be considered experts?

Finally in episode 208 an email from a listener, a psychologist, spoke to the origins of the number 10,000. There is an aspect of relativity. The origins of the number was examining the number of hours needed for a person to be considered an expert at a GLOBAL level. Example - your every day black belt versus Rickson Gracie.

Dan posed an interesting question - would it be easy for an attorney to convince a jury that a black belt in jiu jitsu was an expert?

I had a couple thoughts about the concept of Experts or Expertise. Is it really about the time you put in?

1) Expertise is relative. The concept of expert being a relative term was brought up by Dan and Caleb. And right away I gravitated to that. There probably is not ever going to be a global standard of what constitutes an expert. The 10,000 hours is brought up, but that is in relative terms as well - local expert versus world reknown expert. There is always a professional versus lay-person relativity. The legal or medical or financial or any other profession du jour will always have a level or knowledge above their lay-person counter parts.

There is always someone who knows a little more about a subject or technique that you can turn to. Whether it is in the same company, town, or even subject-matter community.

2) Does a different viewpoint contribute to expertise?
Perhaps it isn't that an expert knows more, maybe they look at a problem differently. Is it truly about the accumulated knowledge that someone has? Or is it the method in which they tackle the problem? A different mindset or self-awareness?

I read this concept in a post and it was a wake up to me, because I was sensing this thought on the tip of my brain, but the post captured it very well. Once I figure out whose post I pulled this from, I will give full credit! - So when you are rolling, and someone is in your guard - do you think about them being in your guard or are you in an upside down mount on them? Does changing your mindset about a position, situation or problem contribute to you being classified as an expert?

3) If it is about time - does that mean practical time?
I ask this because I was wondering about that 10,000 hour figure. Does that mean practical time? Because I wonder how much - THINKING - about a particular subject contributes to developing expertise? I'm not talking about "hey cool, I like JiuJitsu" thinking. I'm talking about using techniques like visualization or mind mapping. There is enough literature out there that speaks to visualization not only for mental preparation, but physical. Race car drivers have been studied to understand the effectiveness of visualization. First of all, drivers that regularly do this had incredible focus. Their visualization of multiple conditions, track direction, speed at certain points in a track was unbelievably detailed. Some elite drivers had the ability to visualize their race in their head to within fractions of a second of the actual race. Golfers have used visualization to commit the "perfect swing" to muscle memory.
There have been anecdotes that to a certain level, participants that actually did an exercise versus participants that used visualization to do the exercise in their head experience a similar increase in strength for both groups. I'm doing some literature searches now to determine if there have been actual studies to prove this. I know from personal experience that when I've really internalized a technique that I may have seen in a video, it has come very natural to me when it comes to pulling it off, versus the times that I passively watch a video or a lesson and hope. Should all of this thinking time figure into that 10,000 hour figure?

Finally - I had a spin on Dan's question - Would it be difficult for an attorney to convince a jury that a black belt in JiuJitsu is an expert? - My thought was - Would it be difficult for an attorney to convince a jury that a black belt in JiuJitsu is NOT and expert?

Perhaps there are attributes of an Expert that sit in everyones mind. This is what is in my mind.
1) Extensive time training in subject - including thinking/studying the subject.
2) Recognized by others as having specific knowledge in particular subject
3) Experiments with in their field to improve the practice - pushes the envelope
4) Finally, there is an aspect of teaching that I believe an expert needs to have. I'm not sure what to call it, but to label someone an expert implies that there is a need to draw information or learn from that person.

What are your thoughts?

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Attention Deficit Dad with as many interests as days in the year. You can't hold me back and you can only hope to contain me!
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