LeadershipSite Update

10,000 Hours of Practice

By Ron Pereira Updated on February 26th, 2009

10,000 hours. That’s precisely how long you need to practice something before you can even think about calling yourself an expert.

Well, at least this is what Malcolm Gladwell claims in his newest book Outliers, which I must say is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever encountered.

The Story of Success

Outliers is all about what makes people great. But it’s not your typical book that rambles on about if you believe it you can achieve it. No, you won’t read anything like that.

Instead, Gladwell explains why things such as the month you were born may very well explain why most NHL players made it to the big leagues. He also explains why Chinese children dominate American children when it comes to mathematics.

10,000 Hours of Practice

But the thing that really stuck with me, and I’d to share with you now, is how Gladwell hypothesizes that it takes – on average – 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.

Take Bill Gates. Did you know that the young Bill Gates spent more than 10,000 hours programming computers before starting Microsoft?

How about those lads from England… you know the Beatles? I bet you didn’t know they were quite terrible before having the opportunity to perform as much as five hours a night seven days a week in Hamburg, Germany before making it big.

Sure Gates and the Beatles had talent. But they also worked extremely hard. You see, it seems they practiced their way to the top.

What about Continuous Improvement?

So I couldn’t help but wonder if this 10,000 hour rule applied to those of us “practicing” continuous improvement.

To get in 10,000 hours of practice this really means spending approximately:

  • 4 hours a day;
  • 5 days per week;
  • Over a span of 10 years practicing your trade.

What do you think? Is there anything to this 10,000 hour rule? If not, are you willing to prove the hypothesis wrong?

  1. scott williams

    February 26, 2009 - 9:08 pm

    definitely agree. toyota has been at it for more than 50 years and still needs to improve. the more i think about it, i am not even sure 10,000 hours is enough!

  2. Anonymous

    February 27, 2009 - 8:07 am

    Absolutely,thats bcz the more time you practice something,more you will go deeper into things.You will find somethimg new & fascinating about the things you practice & that leads to continous improvement,which is a never ending journey.

  3. Tom Palmitesta

    February 27, 2009 - 11:13 am

    It has always been true. Now if it has to be 10M hours more or less to be called an “expert” I don’t know. Remember the definition: “An expert is somebody who knows more and more about less and less”. More hours, more knowledge? I don´t think so. I know people that can master a subject in a very short time and some that prefer o need more time. I am in the second lot. As for continuous improvement, don’t we teach that the PDCA cycle is a “never ending” cycle? So why putting a limit to it?

  4. Harish

    February 27, 2009 - 7:29 pm

    Somehow this reminds me of “Those who can DO, and those who cannot call themselves an expert”

    Seriously, ten years is nothing if they are not well spent. Some of the professors I had for my Masters were having 20 years experience – enough said. 🙂


  5. Don Jones

    March 2, 2009 - 11:43 am

    Your ability to apply a skill set (Six Sigma, Lean or TQM) is not determined by the number of hours you’ve practiced that particular skill but by your ability to incorporate the knowledge you’ve gained through a life time of learning. Common sense plays a greater role in success than repetition. Repetition is induced blindness assisted by a numbness of the brain. This method is proven to work in situtations where the task never changes. Failing to apply accumulated knowledge to accepted theory results in a tunnel vision affect that can lead companies into a false sense of security leading to the corporate collapes seen in 2008 and 2009.

  6. ford

    March 10, 2009 - 6:18 am

    “The moment one gets into the `expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible” – Henry Ford
    Pretty good manufacturing guy…be careful becoming an expert…

  7. Robert

    May 17, 2009 - 3:38 pm

    It’s one thing to be an “expert” another thing to realize “mastery.” I do not believe the two are necessarily the same. Could one become an expert without achieving mastery?

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