Forget Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. We Live In The Age Of Lifelong Learning.

In the age of near-constant innovation and disruption, what you spent 3.5 years learning may very well be redundant by the time you become an ‘expert’.


Let’s face it; in the broader framework within which those talents find their application, it’s probably safe to say there is no such thing as a world-class creative. Granted, there are individuals with above average creative faculties, and whose capabilities we certainly could attribute to the dedication and consistency with which they have invested time honing their crafts and nurturing those innate abilities.

 Before those who often make such claims get disgruntled, allow me to clarify my position. The reason I make that argument is simply because by the time one has completed their 10,000 hours of deliberate practise, if you subscribe to Malcom Gladwell’s rule that is, then it’s also likely that what one has mastered will have become redundant.
 Even if we accept the 10,000 hour rule , it means that it would take one some three and a half years of working diligently at their craft, for eight hours a day, to become masterful.

At this point you may be thinking well, but why only eight hours since you’d expect a higher time input rate from anyone who deserves to be considered great. But then again, considering eight hours is in line with the average working day; and for the purposes of satisfying those critics who argue that there’s a threshold of concentration which can’t be exceeded by most able-bodied persons with good health, then I’m sure you’ll agree that eight hours is a reasonable and standard time frame to go by. With that considered, three and a half years in the digital space is a lifetime if one just takes into account the pace at which technology is changing the realm in which creatives exercise their talents.

 Personally, my approach has been to shift my focus on to what I’ll call the creative space continuitas. What that encompasses is a continuous process of learning and reinvention. The main reason for employing this modus operandi is that I see it as most suited to the nature of the field in which I operate, that is, the creative sector.
 Take those who work in the media space for instance, in the past three years alone we have witnessed several disruptions. From the boom in brand engagement with consumers via social media and less through traditional platforms such as print and television; to the rise in use of recently launched digital broadcasting platforms which today those who largely relied on conventional communication systems admit failing to keep up with.

On the other hand, those who are adept at using these new technologies have emerged the victors, and managed to capitalise, even swaying public perceptions more effectively, to the old media establishment’s dismay. A casing point being the recent media wars in which we’ve seen the underdogs come out on top, the most prominent being President Donald J. Trump whose effective use of media channels such as Twitter arguably played a critical role in securing his success.

With much of the buying power in the hands of the millennials, it’s in creative industries’ interest to ensure we create value, especially for a generation which is not so much cost conscious; but value conscious by finding innovative ways to enhance offerings which require constant learning.

Observing the recent trend in the rate of technological advancement, it’s hard to imagine there’s ever going to be a slowdown in pace. In fact it appears we’re only going to see further disruptions in the media space and many other industries in part due to Moore’s law.

With respect to the impact on knowledge and experience in relation to expertise, in many ways I do agree with Frans Johansson‘s assessment that the effect of prolonged practise on performance is domain dependent. Drawing from my own experience in the field of marketing, I’ve had to make many adjustments over the last decade in order to meet industry demands by moving away from traditional marketing techniques and learning more up-to-date approaches which are more pertinent to the times. Still, despite all that, every day seems to present new learning challenges and opportunities to grasp other techniques which are at the cutting edge.

That said, more generally, most industries have undergone some kind of transformation or are in the process of it. But none more so than those in the creative sector, which most would agree will continue to undergo further disruption for many years to come. I can’t even begin to fathom how the IoT or VR is going to influence the ways in which we operate in the marketing arena when we are still trying to get to grips with the current technologies, and figuring out how to effectively harness them to full capacity in order to find optimal solutions for our clients, consumers, and businesses.

With much of the buying power in the hands of the millennials, it’s in creative industries’ interest to ensure we create value, especially for a generation which is not so much cost conscious; but value conscious by finding innovative ways to enhance offerings which require constant learning.

I have come to accept that as long as I keep operating in the creative field, continuous upskilling and self-improvement will be key to securing a lasting career. So the concept of referring to oneself as an expert seems to be a logical fallacy and all that one can – in all honesty perceive self to be – is an education enthusiast and life-long learner, who occasionally refers to ideas from the past, but is always thriving to be more forward-thinking by looking to the future.

Originally published in The Huffington Post 01/02/2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s