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Grit and Uncertainty [Entrepreneurship
Posted on May 27, 2016 @ 09:46:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In a recent blog I promoted the book Grit as a timely book to consider reading (it is currently a best-seller). Already there is starting to be some controversery over the power of grit to explain success. This article also discusses criticism of Malcolm Gladwell's promotion of the "10,000 hours of practice" rule for achieving expertise as being too simplistic as well. Grit and the "10,000 hours of practice" rule are related ideas that are worth considering together.

Why do you need Grit? Why does acquiring expert level performance require 10,000 hours? There are lots of answers to this question but one that appeals to me lately as a result of reading Kenneth Hammond's books is the idea that learning under conditions of uncertaintly is very difficult and requires alot of time and grit to achieve mastery. Our understanding of the world is mediated by multiple fallible indicators and knowing which indicators we need to attend to and how much weight to assign each indicator is sometime it might take a lifetime to master. If we perform action A (plant potatoes in hay) on one occasion and achieve great results (lots of potatoes) and then do it the next year and get very poor results, then you have to start modifying and complicating your understanding of hay as a growing medium for potatoes.

One way to frame why grit and 10,000 hours of practice are used to explain high-level performance is because what we are are awash in multiple fallible indicators that may simply require alot of persistence and practice to make sense of. If this is true, then perhaps we might not need so much grit and so many hours to achieve mastery if we know that our task is to make sense of multiple fallible indicators as they relate to, say, selling a product or investing in a stock. We need to put ourselves in a situation and mindframe that allows identify the indicators and assign the appropriates weights in our judgement and decision making.

If Grit is so important to achieving success it begs the question of why it is so important? One answer that I like is that it is important because achieving success requires mastery of the multiple fallible indicators associated with the domain we work within. There is no magic bullet to learning under conditions of uncertaintly. Success perhaps goes to those who don't get frustrated by this slow learning process. Maybe we can get by with a little less grit and a little less practice if we explicitly acknowledge and use Kenneth Hammond's multiple fallible indicators strategy (a.k.a the "correspondence strategy") for dealing with uncertaintly.

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