Development of Expertise

The Way Expertise Works

“Chess masters don’t evaluate all the possible moves. They know how to discard 98 percent of the ones they could make and then focus on the best choice of the remaining lot. That’s the way expertise works in other fields, too: Wise practitioners recognize familiar patterns and put their creativity, improvisation, and skill toward the marginal cases.” – John Dickerson


The chess master has automated a great number of procedures, this allows them to discard the the ones that do not apply without consciously thinking about them, thus allowing them to make decisions with great speed considering all of the possible moves that are possible.

An excerpt from How To Become The Best at Anything, Automaticity

“Deliberate practice results in the automation of a sequence of steps. It is automated so you don’t have to consciously think about it while you are doing it, you just do it. Some people call this “muscle memory.” I don’t like this term since muscles have no memory. Repeat after me, “muscles have no memory.” This automated sequence of steps is in your memory, in your brain. Your brain places this automated sequence of steps into nice and neat “chunks,” so you do not have to consciously think about them.

Remember when you were first learning to drive a car. It was very difficult and stressful because you had to remember to do so many new things at the same time. Most DMVs require a minimum of 50 hours supervised behind-the-wheel experience before you may apply for a license if you are under 18. It takes 100 hours of deliberate practice before a complex sequence begins to fully automate. That is why it is so difficult in the beginning to drive a car in traffic.

Now that you have been driving for several years, when you are commuting home after work, you probably don’t think about driving, you suddenly find yourself at the freeway off-ramp and almost home. That is because your diving has become automated, if something unusual occurs, you instantly snap back into conscious thinking mode and make corrections to your driving.

This is also why you must practice good driving habits in the beginning, so you don’t automate a bad habit. Once a bad habit is automated, it is very hard to un-automate it and replace it with the correct automation. Learn the basics correctly the first time. This goes for all practice, for all domains.”

A Road Map to the Development of Expertise – How to Become the Best at Anything