Learning & Development

Learning Skills: How Long Does It Take?

By Ryan M. Frischmann
In yesterday’s Advisor, Ryan M. Frischmann, author of A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, described how skills are the language of learning and how experiences are a key factor in learning new skills. Today, Frischmann provides some information for our readers regarding an age-old training question: How long does it really take to learn a new skill?

Some experts have attempted to answer the question: How long it takes to learn a skill? The biggest factor is a desired level of expertise with the skill. Do you want to become a master? One properly referenced article says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which translates to about 9 years (consider 5 days a week, spending 4 hours a day).
Another article says it can take 6 months or more to develop a new skill. Do you need it for a particular project? Do you want to explore a personal interest? One article says it can take 20 hours to learn a skill “to perform well enough for your own purposes.”
I think this 20 hours threshold for acquiring skills fits well with a Skills Culture. Students and professionals are motivated to learn skills. They are not hampered by preconceived talents or a feeling they must master skills to be successful. Josh Kaufman sums this up well, “The idea of ‘mastering’ a skill when you’re just getting started is counterproductive: it can be a significant barrier to exploring a new skill in the first place.”
Skills act as the “verb” in knowledge; it is the action part of knowledge. Arguably, this becomes the biggest factor because we are already seeing technology augmenting our ability to retrieve facts and information.

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