Dorothy Leonard talked about “deep smarts” and how novices become experts (official keynote description, slides). As I understand “deep smarts” refer to a form of expertise – tacit, unrecognised, distinguishing experts from novices. I post some of my notes first and then a bit of comments.
“Ladder of expertise”: novice – apprentice – journeyman – master
Deep smarts (experts vs. novices)
- use pattern recognition
- draw on their tacit knowledge
- make swift decision based on knowledge about context
- extrapolate from what they see to what might be
- perceive small variations
Compared to novices experts have a lot of “receptors” and broad experiences, so they recognise patterns more easily. Novices have few or no receptors, without receptors information doesn’t become knowledge.
Ways of learning (with increasing independence)
- specific directions
- rules of thumb
- stories with a moral
- Socratic dialogue
- joint problem-solving
- learning by doing (guided experience)
- guided practice
- guided observation
- creating receptors (mind-stretching)
- challenging assumptions and beliefs
- checking role-models
- guided experimentation
- response to uncertainty
- bounded search for feedback from environment
- learning to think in hypotheses
For me the bottom-line of this talk was that coaching of novices by experts is may be the most effective way to acquire deep smarts. I would be interested to read more on studies Dorothy referred to and I’m getting convinced that I have to spend time studying research on apprenticeship models. If you have any pointers, please, let me know.
Gerald Prast asked Dorothy about dangers of coaching by experts and then we spent great part of lunch time discussing her answer. My summary of why coaching may not be good:
- not all experts can coach novices
- experts can be wrong, so with coaching “wrong expertise” will multiply
- when you learn from experts you are less likely to come up with new ideas
I believe that to overcome those dangers there is a need for more critical skills from novices (=not following gurus blindly, but finding their own path). Next to it an opportunity to learn from many different experts with controversial experiences and ways of coaching will help (but in this case there is a risk of getting lost with multiple role-models). Anyway, both require meta-learning skills which (we know 🙂 are difficult to develop.