I found out a few days ago that Anders Ericsson passed away in early May. Ericsson was a professor of psychology at Florida State University, and his research on the relationship between practice and achievement was the basis for Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour rule”.
As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Gladwell selectively interpreted Ericsson’s findings, and overlooked some of the key concepts that are important in understanding the results of that research – for example, that the quality of practice (“deliberate practice”) is as important, if not more important, than the amount of practice.
David Epstein, whose excellent book The Sports Gene explores all of the factors in addition to practice that make athletes successful, has written a lovely tribute to Ericsson and the impact of his research. I was going to write a longer post myself, but David has said everything that I wanted to say and said it much better. So I’ll link you to his article instead. You can read David’s tribute here.
So imagine my surprise when I Googled “10,000 hour rule” and found this very recent letter by K. Anders Ericsson, the lead author of the study that Gladwell cites as “Exhibit A” in support of the “rule”. Not only does Ericsson say that Gladwell “invented” the 10,000 hour rule, but he also describes Gladwell as making a “provocative generalization to a magical number”. (more…)