I got to the end of a note-book today and found my notes from dconstruct, which reminded me of all sorts of things I wanted to think/write about, and triggered all sorts of thoughts. The first one was from the presentation that Jared Spool did.
He spent a lot of time on the idea that interaction design could be learned but was not available to introspection; ie You can do it well without knowing how you do it. And it can be learned, but not explained. He used the example of chicken-sexing:
Apparently it's quite useful to be able to sex a chicken at an early age. So you can separate male from female and feed them differently. But it's very hard to do, so people who can do it are highly prized. They can stand in-front of a conveyor-belt pointing at chicks and get a 98% accuracy rate. But they can't explain how they do it. And when they want to train someone they get them to stand next to an expert and the novice starts pointing at chicks and guessing. When they get one wrong the expert hits them on the arm. After a few weeks the novice gets up to an 80% accuracy rate, after a year they get up to the 90s. They've created someone else who can do it, but not explain it.
That's, roughly, the story he tells. A bunch of people thought it was a bit banal ('do something a lot you get better at it') but it rather struck a chord with me. I guess because I've spent quite a lot of of time trying to pass on whatever it is I've learned about doing ads and stuff. And I find it incredibly hard to do. Many's the time I've sat there trying to explain why I think we should do A rather than B and not really knowing how I know. Mostly I assume it's some sort of pattern recognition, you see a situation enough times, get it wrong a few times, get it right a few times, you develop some sort of muscle memory about what to do.
Which struck a chord when I watched this video of Malcolm Gladwell at the New Yorker conference. He starts off by talking about different ways of solving hard problems (which we'll get to later) but in the middle he talks about expertise, and how it seems that 10,000 hours of doing something will make you an expert in it. (Sort of) It takes 10,000 hours (or 10-years) of dedicated 'heavy-lifing' and application to be a pro-tennis player, or violinist, or chess-master or anything. And I reckon I've probably done about 10,000 hours of useful planning thinking stuff (given that I've been doing it for about 20 years, but I've spent a lot of time in stupid meetings and making cups of tea.)
The thing I find myself worrying about is 'expertise in what?'. What have I spent 10,000 hours learning? As I do more and more stuff that's not advertising I think I'll start to find out just what it is I've learned. I'm looking forward to that. But, more importantly, what are we asking people at the start, or in the middle of their careers, to spend 10,000 hours doing? Will it be any use to them 10,000 hours later? Are we making them experts in something that won't be around 10,000 hours later, or are we giving them expertise in something that will last? That seems like an important thing to wonder about.