Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Expert Road

There are a few things I'm really good at. One or two I am extremely great at. And a host of things at which I suck horribly. I know you are thinking this is totally obvious, but stick with me. I'm going somewhere with this one.

Generally speaking, you can drop people into of three categories concerning any skill. They're either Novice, Experienced, or Expert. When you are first learning something you are a Novice. You don't really know anything and you have no muscle or long-term memory for the skill at this stage. Once you have developed some proficiency you can move past the Novice stage and enter the Experienced stage. At this point in development, you either commit or you give up. Those who commit can eventually become Experts. Those who give up stay in the realm of the Experienced.

Whether it is about building products and services to be consumed, or in your own development, identifying when the commitment point occurs is key to understanding your adoption rate and capability for advancement.

Being a novice sucks. When you are just learning any new skill you always stink. At some point, with practice or just time, you stop being awful. That's the point when you move into Experienced. Unfortunately, sometimes we are willing to settle at the proficiency level we have reached simply because the effort to advance is too great. I don't want to try and get better, because trying something new means I'm going to suck again. After all the effort I put in so I don't stink as a Novice, if I move to the Experienced bracket I'm just falling right back into being horrible again.

If you aren't passionate or motivated, if the costs to get better are just too high, you get stuck. But the reality is, the better you get at something, the more fulfilling it will be. The more successful you are with a skill, the more joy and excitement you will feel from exercising it.

So how do you make sure your product or service won't lull people into this middle ground? How can you un-stick yourself when you realize you are settling for mediocrity?

For products and services you need to understand your Attrition Rate. What percentage gives up? What features were used or not before attrition? When considering the effort involved in adoption, what can be provided to help speed the transition into experienced?

For yourself it can help to keep your eye on the end goal. Remember that passion can ebb and flow, especially as you reach each new level and realize how much further your progression can go. It's natural to be daunted because you suck with something new. Focus on the result, establish the habits daily so you aren't fighting yourself everyday. When you do reach a new level, revel in it for a while.

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