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Experience doesn’t equal expertise

Dave Keelty unpacks whether experience is the be all and end all to becoming an expert. 

To get better at something, we need to do more of it. Get more reps in, do the work, put in the hard yards. The clichés we have to reinforce this idea are numerous. The 10,000 hours movement was this thinking embodied.  

I’ve been driving since I was 16. I’ve done some quick calculations, and I’m estimating since then I’ve driven between 7500-8500 hours. So safe to say I’ve been getting those ‘reps’ in. However, am I better driver now than when I had driven for 1000 hours, 4000 hours? In all honesty, I don’t think so.  

I’ve been coaching since I was 19. Over that time I’ve accumulated (again, estimating) around 2000 hours of coaching. So I’m a significantly less experienced coach than I am a driver. However, my growth as a coach is far more significant than my growth as a driver. Why? 

Experience is a prerequisite for developing expertise. But we need to learn from our experience to improve. Reflection, whether that is internal or using ‘more knowledgeable others’, is a key process in helping turn experience into expertise.  

I reflect on my driving only when it’s needed. If there was a near miss, or I see a police car nearby, that kind of thing. Those incidents bring my driving skills to the front of my mind, and I’ll reflect on what I’m doing, but only for a short period of time. It’s too much effort, and being completely honest, I don’t care enough about it to spend that much time and energy on it. The consequence of that is I don’t convert my experience into expertise.  

I recently watched some footage of me coaching, probably when I had around 500 hours under my belt. There were things I was doing in that footage that made me cringe. But since I started coaching, I’ve spent time reflecting on what I do and how I do it after each session. I ask questions like ‘what did I notice?’ What worked? Why did that person respond that way? What was I trying to achieve? I talk to colleagues, friends, my wife about things that happened during a session. I’ve asked mentors to come and watch me coach, and asked them to give me feedback. This reflection has helped me improve my coaching process, and help convert some of my experience into expertise.  

Reflection, using a mix of your own internal practice and engaging with others will help you unlock the mindset to turn experience into expertise. 

As Gilbert and Trudel (2006) suggested

“Ten years of coaching without reflection is simply one year of coaching repeated ten times.” 

Are you racking up the hours like I am as a driver? Or are you invested in turning your experience into expertise, making those hours count?

Image Source: Deposit Photos 

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