Are You an Expert DJ? (or would you like to become one?)
When you do something frequently, the perceived wisdom is that you'll get better and better at it until eventually you become an expert. This was a notion put forward by Malcolm Gladwell in his fantastic book Outliers in which he essentially said that to be an expert in any field you need to have accumulated 10,000 hours practicing that skill.
Gladwell gives many fascinating examples to demonstrate this theory from The Beatles to Bill Gates to Oppenheimer. The Outliers theory is expanded on by Joshua Foer in his equally excellent book called Moonwalking With Einstein, in which he describes a condition that he has named the OK Plateau.
I doubt there will be many people who read this that are unable to type on a computer keyboard. However, when you first learnt to use a keyboard you were, almost certainly, extremely slow and doing one finger typing, carefully looking at each key that you pressed. After a while you probably progressed to careful two handed typing until, like most people, you reached the stage where you no longer needed to think about the keys on the keyboard. You reached a point where you could focus far more on what you are typing rather than how you type it!
Chances are you've now typed regularly for a large percentage of your life, but I'd wager that you're still not a speed typist, able to type over 100 words a minute flawlessly without ever glancing at the keyboard? Yet, unless you're under 18 years old, I bet you've accumulated well in excess of 10,000 hours at a keyboard. So, shouldnt we all be amazingly fast touch typists by now? Obviously not, and Joshua Foer believes that it is because we have reached his OK Plateau.
In 1967 two psychologists, Paul Fitts and Michael Posner, presented the results of research they had carried out looking at people learning to do new things. They concluded that we all go through three stages whenever attempting to acquire a new skill.
Stage 1: Cognitive
Beginners really think about what they are trying to do in the cognitive stage. They observe and listen. They process instructions and make a lot of mistakes, but they also make significant progress.
Stage 2: Associative
The associative stage is less about what to do and more about how to do it and requires less concentration. Learners still improve at a rapid pace, but not in leaps and bounds.
Stage 3: Autonomous
Finally, after extensive practice, learners reach the autonomous stage where they can perform well with little or no thought and get to the point where theyre running on autopilot.
Regardless of the skill, its when we reach Stage 3 that we begin to cease learning and transition to strictly doing. Usually this is a good thing, because it means our mind has one less thing to worry about.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 71, Pages 48-50.