10,000-Experiment Rule
10,000-Experiment Rule

10,000-Experiment Rule

Quick Summary

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.—Thomas Edison

Some models we cover in the Mental Model Club are relatively new even to Eben and I, while others are longtime bedrocks. The 10,000-Experiment Rule is one we’ve been implementing for many years that has become crucial to our success.

The 10,000-Experiment Rule is an idea I coined that was inspired by two sources:

  • The 10,000-Hour Rule that many of us are familiar with; and
  • The quote above from Thomas Edison, who famously ran tens of thousands of experiments throughout his career.

Debunking The 10,000-Hour Rule

You’ve probably heard of the 10,000-Hour Rule. It comes from Anders Ericsson, a psychologist and researcher who studied top performers across distinct fields such as sports, the arts, and medicine. He found that in certain endeavors such as violin and chess, it often took people 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become known worldwide. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this idea by coining “The 10,000-Hour Rule” in his bestselling book Outliers.

While the 10,000-Hour Rule can be very powerful, there’s an important caveat that most people miss: The results of the 10,000-hour rule widely differ wildly depending on the domain.

When it comes to professions, in the modern world of business, the underlying rules are constantly changing along with new technologies. The rules of commerce, transportation, engineering, journalism, medicine, and so much more are changing by the day. In fact, the rules of the previous generation might actively hurt you. Spending 10,000 hours on deliberate practice is not going to be the key that gets you ahead in these fields.

What will get you ahead, though, is experimentation.

Takeaway: In fields that are rapidly changing, conducting 10,000 experiments is better than putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

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