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Mastering a skill

by Randall Craig on February 28, 2008

Filed in: Blog, Learning, Management, New Job

Tagged as: , ,

How long does it take – or should it take – for you to master a new skill? Conventional wisdom suggests that after doing something several times, you should know it fairly well. After doing it for a few months, you should have proficiency. And after a year, you’re an expert. Or are you?

The knowledge that is embedded within an organization is often found in long-time employees – those who have been around for 10+ years. Typically, these are the people who can answer questions about long-time clients and suppliers. These are the people that have strong organizational knowledge – they are the organic databases and walking knowledge management systems. Their skills and experience have developed with time.

Businesses are now (or soon will be) at an interesting turning point. The last generation of long-time employees will soon be moving into retirement. A new generation of “millennials” – all apparently with short attention spans – will be taking their place. Will these younger employees have the skills and the patience to develop the deep knowledge necessary for corporate (and national) success?

This issue came to mind in the strangest of circumstances. I had demonstrated a lengthy karate sequence of moves to my karate sensei the other night. After a demonstration, there is usually a fair amount of critical feedback. In this case, I was told that it was a wonderful demonstration, and that I had finally mastered the sequence. It had taken me twenty years. (After a year, you’re an expert? Inexperience prevents many people from seeing how much further progress is possible.)

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Randall Craig

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