Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Power of 10,000 Hours

One of the benefits of blogging is that you share an interest and affiliation with others that you never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Most of the bloggers I have been in contact with have not been even the least interested in business, or finance, or treasury - yet even then points of similarity occur.

One of these bloggers, in their blog Blogging Without a Blog, discussed Malcolm Gladwell’s references in his book Outliers to K. Anders Ericsson’s studies, and others, of what it takes to be an expert. One of the simple takeaways from this research was that it came down to 10,000 hours of practice.
Want to be good at playing trumpet? Practice for 10,000 hours. Want to be a great hockey player? Practice for 10,000 hours. Want to be great at chess? Practice for 10,000 hours.
Want to be a great Treasurer or CFO? You know what I am going to say.
What is 10,000 hours? It is about 5 years of 40 hour work weeks. In other words, a long time. So long, in fact, that none of us can hope to be expert in everything. We need to choose, because there are limitations, even if we work 80 hour weeks.
What we choose to use our limited amount of time to be expert in will be, for better or worse, our source of competitive advantage. This phrase is overused, I know, much in the manner of Best Practice, subject of prior blogs, but I am willing to use it in this context because it can be true.
Take ten folks from a treasury staff and calculate what they spent 10,000 hours on, and they will all be different. One will have developed deep Excel Macro skills, another picked up project management processes, and another nailed down accounting rules and regulations pertaining to cash and investments.
Take this group in aggregate, and compare the 100,000 hours it has spent in total to any other Treasury group, whether in the same industry or not, and it will be different. This leads to the conclusion that no two Treasury groups are identical - each Treasury group is unique.
Taken another way, over the next five years we all have the opportunity to dramatically re-direct and enhance our Treasury groups to entirely new levels of knowledge and performance, in ways nobody else will duplicate. What a great opportunity!
I would love to hear your thoughts about achieving expertise or your stories on this topic if you have them.
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Thanks for stopping by the Treasury Cafe!

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