In the last post (Part-4) I started journey from knowledge, moved onto skills and competence, performance and then to proficiency. http://personal-resonance.com/part-iv-performance-to-proficiency-are-you-able-to-deliver-reproducible-and-consistent-results-in-every-situation/. I showed you that how reproducibility was a key factor that convert performance into proficiency.
Let’s move to next milestone in this journey.
Expertise: Be the Authority By Specializing with Your Expertise
Going back to my example of driving he car, I wish I could say I have gained expertise in driving. But reality is that expertise does not come so easily. For some of you, proficiency or expertise may mean same thing. Expertise is a less explored area. I will use some key research reference to establish why you should target achieving expertise in your chosen field.
Let me elaborate it with a research definition of ‘expertise’.
Dreyfus (1986) explained that experts don’t apply rules, or uses any maxims or guidelines. He rather has intuitive grasp of situations based on his deep tacit understanding. This is the key aspect of this level is that individual relies on intuition and analytical approach is used only in new situations or unrecognized problems not earlier experienced. Experts are deemed to have intuitive capability which is termed as ability to integrate information from a large array of accumulated experiences to assess the situation; select a course of action through recognition; and then assess the course of action through mental simulation (Klien, 1999).
Experience based deep understanding provides a person at expert level a very fluid performance. At this stage skills becomes automatic that even expert is not aware of it. Based on priori experience, they can even come up with solution for new never experienced before situations. Experts adopt a contextual approach to problem solving and understand the relative, non-absolute nature of knowledge and this ability distinguishes the “expert” from the “proficient” practitioner. Reflection comes naturally and experts solve problems almost unconsciously.
Range of researchers have outlined various attributes possessed by experts: Superb mental knowledge representations, ability to handle complexity very well, ability to efficiently store and recall information, ability to process large amount of information efficiently with minimum cognitive load, also ability to deal with low quality and quantity of data or ambiguous information, ability to selectively filter relevant information, deep problem solving skills and ability to recognize patterns and better strategies and meta-skills, to name a few.
What does it take to become an expert?
The question becomes if you are a proficient performer, what does it take to become an expert?
Let me give you an equation here:
Proficiency + Deliberate Practice = Expertise
Deliberate practice is not just routine practice or any other domain related activity like work or on-the–job training event. There are four components: focused goals which are determined by a teacher in order to improve a specific aspect of performance; concentration and effort; feedback from a teacher comparing actual to desired performance; and further opportunities for practice. The feedback from mentor is very important factor in learning and skill acquisition.
How long does it take to attain expertise?
Hayes (1995), Raskin (1936), Simon and Chase (1973) and Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer (1993) and many others found in several context like science, arts, music, chess and sports, that the development of very high-level skill in any complex area takes at least ten years of concerted effort. Eriksson, father of concept of deliberate practice, found in his research that journey to attain expertise in something takes 10000 hours or 10 years of deliberate practice (20 hours for 50 weeks a year for ten years = 10,000). I wrote about this in my previous post. Click here: http://personal-resonance.com/10-years-10000-hours-of-practice-to-achive-expertise-or-personal-resonance/
Note that Erikson’s research was referring to world-class expertise. As a business professional or a job holding professional, do you target to achieve a world-class expertise in the task at hand? Probably not.
However, in complex professional world with ever-growing with cut-throat competition, being just a proficient practitioner is not going to keep you in the race for long. You need to gain professional expertise. Professional expertise is a state of performance where you demonstrate an ability to do a task far superbly than your peers. This is the stage of task-specialization. I have written a bit on how gaining specialization in one thing will lead you to path of self-leadership and peak-performance. Click here: http://personal-resonance.com/leadership-and-specialization/ and http://personal-resonance.com/the-one-best-thing/ . Irony is that professional world and the jobs keep making you more a generalist rather than a specialist.
Then how do you gain professional expertise at your job?
Let me add another perspective that deliberate practice is not enough in itself. Sternberg states (1999) explained that deliberate practice requires an interaction of five elements: metacognitive skills, learning skills, thinking skills, knowledge and motivation. At the center, driving the elements is motivation. Motivation is believed to drive metacognitive skills which in turn activate learning and thinking skills, which then provide feedback to the metacognitive skills, enabling one’s level of expertise to increase.
Therefore the last equation is changed a bit:
Proficiency + (Deliberate Practice with motivation) = Expertise
That changes the way process of deliberate practice has been seen. Without any persistent motivation, sustaining the deliberate practice and working incessantly toward specialization in one task or skill becomes difficult. How do you attain unwavering motivation? Well. That happens only when your area of focus is aligned very well with your passions. You may read what I have written about power of aligning your area of focus with passion and how it accelerates achieving the expertise. According to research better the alignment between area of focus, more stable and propelling your motivation will be.
What it means to you?
- Just doing the job may not help you achieve this expertise; you need to deliberately set some time aside to sharpen your axe. To achieve the professional expertise you need to continuously invest your energy in your area of focus for with disciplined 2-3 hours a day in addition to your job or primary professional.
- Align your area of focus with your innate passions. This will give you a continuous propulsion energy that keeps you motivated continuously towards doing a more disciplined deliberate practice.
- You need a long-term game plan given expertise take much longer to achieve. Expertise may have several levels in itself in a professional job context. You need to define where you want to see yourself. Better than your peers? Better than people you know? Better than certain standards? It is okay to think your game plan in terms of comparison to begin with.
Stay tuned for Part 6 of this series where I will culminate into how you can achieve mastery.