Talent ID & Management Part 5: Early vs Late Specialisation?

02 Feb 2016 Posted by

Yesterday I posted a video in my Talent ID and management series in which I introduced the concept of the 10,000 hour rule, and I explained how some of the foundational work in that area didn’t account for the possibility that ability drives practice, rather than the other way around, and also how 10,000 is clearly neither necessary, nor sufficient, to attain expert performance.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if it is going to take a person 10,000 hours to reach expert level, then they are probably a “bad investment” in a world where resources are scarce and where competition is so great.

In that video (which you can view below), I mentioned the detrimental implications of a 10,000 hour “dogma” more than once, and this video, Part 5 of the series, discusses one such potential downside.

That is, the preoccupation with logging those 10,000 hours feeds the idea that people must specialise early and be dedicated to a single sport.  How, for instance, can a person who takes up football or ice-hockey achieve the required 10,000 hours if they get distracted by other sports, which takes away their training time?

This is an argument, word for word, that I have heard presented at high performance and talent development conferences.  Every hour spent on Sport Y is an hour less spent on Sport X.

But what does the research say?  What does common sense say?  We know a fair amount about specialisation vs sampling/diversification, and this video is my attempt to explain some of those concepts to you.

Below you can view Part 5: Specialisation, and immediately below that, is Part 4 on the 10,000 hour dogma, because the two are, as you will hopefully recognise, closely linked.

Enjoy, and remember to share, and I’ll be back soon with Part 6, tackling the Relative Age Effect.


Thanks for watching.  Here are the posts from Parts 1 to 4 of the series!

  1.  The strategic and tactical fundamentals of Talent – the budgeting decision
  2. Acceptable inefficiencies
  3. Ineffective tools and the unbearable uncertainty of the “bet”
  4. The 10,000 hour rule, talent and false dichotomies


PS: Here is that study I describe in the paper, discussing sampling vs specialisation:

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