Ten Thousand Hours and Counting…

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Sitting in an MIT training course discussing changing one’s leadership style, the conversation turned to that of Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours which struck me as interesting enough.  As here we are sitting in one of the preeminent educational institutions, the Sloan School of Business at MIT speaking of “pop business” topics.  Now don’t get me wrong as I too enjoy reading Gladwell’s work so one of the things we need to look at is why use the term “pop business”?

In short it’s an intentional stealing of the term “pop” or popular culture as it means things which are believed to be the norm simply because they are “culturally popular” at the time and not necessarily the whole truth as at one time “pop culture” liked pet rocks, so therefore “pop business” is not different as it sometimes favors the “different” just for being different.  In more academic terms we look at this in the form of the Pareto Rule (80/20) in that the “pop” encompasses the 80% however there still is 20% unaccounted for which in “number” could outweigh the majority (as Pareto himself seemed to have put forward).

This always seems to hold true with my wife as she is one of these type “A”’s that wants’ an answer which encompasses 100% of the potential cases in less than 5 seconds.  Thus as we type “B”’s know that’s not possible as there are exceptions to all rules therefore she will always find a reason to question me and it makes for lively conversations sometimes.  Yet pop or not Gladwell’s rule does seem to answer quite a few general questions about the world around us and believing solidly that a picture is worth a thousand words have created a graph to help make the point.

As if we look at the attached comparison we see that a “man week” of 40 hours and even a “man month” of 172 hours barely show on the chart, as a “man year” just start’s to show up.  Then we look at 10,000 hours and we see its consumed almost a half of decade!  Ok you’re saying so Campbell, what’s the point of this as we can do the math on our own?

One of things it does seem to answers is the question of the “lost decade” hypothesis as the common thought is systems are dynamic in a sense they are immediately self adapting such as when you touch a hot stove your reaction is to pull your hand away as quickly as possible.  However the real world doesn’t work this way especially when significant change is involved.  Take for example the information technology arena where we built up a workforce in the over the decades of the 80’s to drive into the 90’s only to send the work offshore displacing the droves of workers we spent a decade to create as to be proficient per Gladwell they will need around 10,000 hours under their belt to retrain and since I know really no one who in adulthood could take 5 years off, means this is yes going to take about a decade.

So in short for every major paradigm shift in society, means that “society” will lose a decade before the implied proficiencies are returned…

About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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