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Getting the Best Value from Experience (and the Myth of 10,000 hours)

Getting the Best Value from Experience (and the Myth of 10,000 hours)

There is a Myth… It’s the myth of 10,000 hours. But how can you get the best value from experience? I’ll tell you.

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10,000 Hours of Experience

In his book, ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how 10,000 hours of practice is what it takes to craft mastery. He cites examples like Bill Gates and the Beatles.

The source of his argument is some solid research on the value of experience, by the psychologist, Anders Ericsson, and his co-workers. The problem is that there is a mismatch between Ericsson’s findings and Gladwell’s assertions. And Ericsson has called Gladwell out on this.

But I’m not here to take sides…

Instead, I want to focus on what it is that researchers can readily agree on. More experience and more practice are good. But the quality and nature of your practice and experience matter too.


A project manager does ten similar projects in the same context, with a similar team, at a rate of one a year. Do they have ten years of experience? Yes.

But how valuable is that ten years of experience?

Consider another project manager. This one does a very different type of project each year for ten years. They work in different cultures, with different people. And on a variety of deadline-driven and open-ended projects. They work on soft change and hard deliverables, in technology, operations, and human resources. Their sponsors come from a variety of sectors. Those ten years offer so much new experience.

Deliberate Practice vs Experience

Ericsson emphasizes the value of ‘deliberate practice’. Taking on new challenges that always stretch your capabilities. Choosing tests of your capabilities that teach you new things. And consciously reflecting on what you are learning.

Are you getting the greatest possible value from your experience?

Have you taken risks to get a variety of experiences? Or are you just playing it safe and doing very much the same project, again and again?

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s your choice.

But the choices you make will determine the opportunities you’ll get.

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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