When Are You an Expert?

30 May

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors, and I remember reading “Outliers” a few years ago. It’s a book about what makes experts, well, expert. The book also tried to answer the question: What makes those who excel in their fields so special?

The (short) answer: being in the right place at the right time AND having 10,000 hours of experience in the field. Basically, after you have gained 10,000 hours practicing at your profession, it takes a little bit of luck and opportunity to catapult you to greatness.clapping hands

It made sense. After all, when The Beatles were discovered, they had practiced approximately 10,000 hours. And, the examples go on and on.

Anyway, that got me thinking about practicing mediation–or any profession for that matter. How much has to do with God-given “talent,” and how much has to do with practice, practice, practice?

I like to think it’s a little of both. We can all agree that some people just have a “knack” for mediating disputes (maybe they were middle children). But, how many others were rusty at first, but developed an expertise as they gained experience? Are the “great” mediators those who have natural talent plus 10,000 hours experience?

I’m not entirely sure how one becomes a “great” mediator or a “famous” mediator or an “expert” mediator. But, something tells me it has to do with lots of factors, not just one–or two.



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2 Responses to “When Are You an Expert?”

  1. Betsy Kosier June 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Some thoughts both on being an “expert” and becoming a better mediator: Perhaps expertise comes when we recognize the intersection of the “art” and science of our craft and we embrace lifelong learning, understanding that we will never know everything. While we hold ourselves to high standards as mediators, acknowledging that we have an impact on humans in the “crisis of conflict,” I also believe that mediation practice has a never-ending learning curve, which is one of the aspects of mediation practice that I really appreciate. The infinite potential for learning begs patience with ourselves and confidence that – if we are alert to the signals – those complex “messy” human beings in conflict will let us know when the process isn’t working for them and we can adjust and learn something new, too. Mediation offers predictable unpredictability, where we need to rely on both our theoretical knowledge and some experiential instinct… “if I do this, then this may happen; if I do this, maybe it will get us where we need to go.” Our work constantly presents us with great higher cortical brain-work opportunities!

    • The Olive Branch Blog June 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Hi Betsy:

      How well put!! Thank-you so much for your contribution to our blog. I agree with you and it’s why I think it is so important that as mediators, we take continuing education courses. I have learned from every class and sometimes, haven’t realized the takeaway until I put it into practice.


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