I decided that rather than figure out if everything he did was the best way or “worked for me”, I would just do my best Sean impression. I still had the opportunity to get even better by learning from other instructors or coming up with my own ideas. That could wait until after I got my rating.
He actually noticed. At the beginning of an early lesson he showed me his check routine during taxi. He flowed through all of the instruments and controls. The next flight, I did my best impression. It wasn’t perfect, but it was close. When I was done he told me no student had ever gone through the whole thing the next flight. Most don’t even try. Even the better students just grab a few things and end up with a routine close to his by the end of training.
It all ended up working. I passed my check ride with just about the legal minimum amount of training time.
Writing this all out and talking about what a great student I was feels pretty egotistical. Ironically, that’s the opposite of what this method is about. Just copy the closest person next to you who is better than you. They don’t even have to be that great. Then, find someone better, and copy them. Save breaking new ground for later in your journey.
And frame in general is one of those things that when instructors teach, is taught not only through verbal description, but through actual interaction with a person body. (E.g., we pair dancers off, and have them "move" each other using their frame.) And I don't think it could be adequately conveyed with only words, or, it's definitely much easier to demonstrate by physical contact. (And it's one of those things that instructors will critique from the very beginning until … well, if there is a point where one's frame is perfect, I've not hit it.)
The article also reminds me of when I was a TA for Computer Science. Some students need help, in the sense that they need some concept explained better, or they don't know what function or type to apply or don't know a particular data structure. But some students need help, in that they seem to lack something extremely fundamental; the closest I've come to it is that they lack the ability to establish a mental model of a program and how a computer might execute it that is coherent and consistent. (That is, they'll have some rules, but they're more like patches and bits of understanding and are sometimes even self-contradictory, because they the student are closer to grasping at straws than having some idea of what is actually going on.) Getting the student past that hurdle is something I struggled with as a TA. (I myself either picked it up so long ago I take it for granted, or it came naturally. But neither does any good when trying to teach it.) I feel like at some point I read a research paper that seemed to establish that this divide between CS students was the lack of a good coherent mental model, but I've since lost any reference to it.
I was also a TA for CS, for three years, and when you're in that situation and encounter so many students in such rapid succession, the existence of a double-hump becomes really obvious. It's just that because these courses are self-selected, the second hump has a small number of people.
Reading through the linked retraction at the top, it appears it was only retracted for the controversy and claims outside the original findings, not because what it found was false. So it's really frustrating that people use this as a claim there's no such thing.
I can definitely imagine the cause being something like tacit knowledge that we just don't know how to teach, though.
> It's just that because these courses are self-selected, the second hump has a small number of people.
By second hump, you mean the weaker group (the "inconsistent" group, from the papaer)? At my college, the early CS classes — which was where I spent most of my time as a TA — were also taken by some students of non-CS majors, as some majors required two semesters of CS. (These were primarily major whereby one might need to say, write a computer model to help validate/invalidate something more related to one's field.) So, they weren't all their completely voluntarily, I suppose?
But we definitely had some self-selected students, those who had clearly been self-teaching themselves computers and programming from early in their teenage years. However, our college also permitted one to voluntarily skip one or both of the first two semesters, if one felt one was strong enough to do so. (There was a grace period at the start of the semester whereby you could still transition between the classes, if you found you had bit off more than you could chew.) So, those clearly strong students who had already been independently studying in the field prior to university could skip over some of the courses.
It's kind of scaring me off moving to another country to learn the language because I struggle to remember words in English. At the same time I know I would master the words and phrases I do learn plus I've always wanted to try being immersed in another culture. Terrified of not being understood I guess.
A lot of methods and devices that we end up stuck with today in various contexts are just watered down copies of things that were once great, because all of the superficial features were slavishly copied by multiple generations of people who didn’t understand the original constraints or think about which ones have remained constant and which have changed.
Your last paragraph is just what happens when there’s no force demanding quality. If there’s not strong pressure to maintain or improve quality decline is inevitable.
Learning how to copy things is an art in and of itself. A lot of engineers (myself included) got into the craft by taking things apart and putting them back together again. It's true that you cannot become a good engineer /only/ by doing this, as at some point, you must learn how to create things from scratch that you've never taken apart and never put together before. It's true that teaches you a lot, but I think it's a little bit of a stretch to imply that it's the only thing that can teach you.
I’m not saying to pick one person and blindly follow them forever. It’s just a really fast way to get competent. I used the same technique to learn programming, scuba diving and sales. After you get the super basics down, find more teachers to copy and start even thinking for yourself a bit more.
It will take you surprisingly far, though. One thing I didn’t mention is it’s good for getting the most out of people who are master practitioners but not great teachers. Rather than ask them to take their skills and package them up for you, you just look over and make a copy for yourself.
To answer your point, there are times in the "learning curve" you need to get used to doing something, and then times to become exceptional. Compare learning to drive to formula 1. And commongcog has an article for that: https://commoncog.com/blog/get-numb-get-good/
In thinking about it, it seems an important part of teaching tacit knowledge is to establish, or cause, conditions that encourage the learning — the experiencing — of the specific things you want to teach.
Thinking back, I realize my own example of successfully teaching tacit knowledge was when I taught my son the first part of how to drive a car with a manual transmission: getting the car moving without killing the engine or burning up the clutch. I took him to a large level area, a huge parking lot, and told him he can do whatever he wants as long as he never touches the throttle. It only took a couple of hours before he had mastered knowing exactly how to modulate the clutch "bite" so that he could get the car moving without stalling, even with the engine at idle. That the car was an older Toyota Corolla with very little torque only helped him better master the finesse required to release the clutch exactly as needed.
We then moved on to modulating the throttle and clutch together, shifting, starting out on hills and all that but, by then, he already knew how to deal with the dark art of the clutch.
Yes. I do a lot of coding on feel, and just today was explaining why something could be done one of two ways but one was better. It took about 30 seconds for my concious brain to work out why it was, even though my unconcious brain knew it straight away.
Weird. Try getting that in an expert system (which might be why they never took off).
And of course try getting that into a CDN without equivalent of twenty years practise.
How do we label good and bad business decisions? Every day?
(side note: actually this is a serious thing I am hoping to work on next year. I think the next big stage of human computer work is computer coaching or feedback on our behaviour. Easy things like our spending habits but heading towards coaching on interpersonal actions - could we for example film a great manager day in day out and identify their activities - and then get them to label the actions - who they spoke to who they encourage why they took that negotiating stance. Do it enough times and you have a real training base.)
On your side note: I also agree here, though the problem may be intractable, since really good managers are not always accustomed to explaining whence their intuition comes.
If tacit knowledge is as important as the author makes out, then hiring "young guns" is always going to have a cost over hiring people that have done it before. As an older developer, that's interesting to me. A contrary point, however, is that maybe all businesses are new domains of exploration, so you might as well pay the cheapest person to develop your domain specific tacit knowledge.
If tacit knowledge is not something you can get by reading, then training and mentoring is much better (dare I say vital!) than documenting it all in a wiki, or just making sure everything is done asynchronously in a well written pull request.
If tacit knowledge is that important, then getting it is a privilege. If you are in a position where you can be paid to develop those skills and don't just have to read up in the evenings after your kids have gone to bed. Many people don't have that privilege but the software industry prides itself partially on the idea that you just have to self teach yourself; if you aren't doing that, you won't be successful in your job. Tacit knowledge is not that.
You'll always pay for acquiring the applied domain knowledge, you can save on paying for the software engineering knowledge acquisition.
If you're smart, you have both a senior and a junior engineer so you can transfer the software domain knowledge, because acquiring tacit knowledge by working under a knowledgable expert is... not free, but close to it.
This is a weird thing to argue. Productivity could be something like [system-knowledge] X [tacit-knowledge-of-programming] so just tacit knowledge wouldn't get a team maximum productivity.
Altogether, it seems like what's tacit in programming or tacit in any complex domain is "how to integrate different complex and sometimes contradictory things". It's important but hardly important in a "you can discard everything else, this is the magic" sort of way.
But, tell me if you think I'm wrong: I'm arguing that most software companies have a mentality like you describe: "you can discard everything else, this is the magic" about wikis, PRs (so they generally ignore mentoring and training, or at least don't want it on their employees schedules).
I think you are saying I'm saying that I think that mentoring and training allow you to throw the rest away. I'm not saying that.
I think there's room to explore in the area of building exercises that try to build this tacit knowledge. Though some things are prohibitively expensive to learn outside of a work context. There are definitely a lot of things I've learned in a work context as a software developer that would have taken a lot longer to learn on my own.
How can tacit knowledge be learned without being in the same room with someone ?
The tacit is in the fact that trying beats explanations because there are so many variables to account for (eg balancing, how it feels to balance and glide will be different for everyone due to their limbs being of different length, their center of mass being different, their level of fear being different and whoknowswhatelse).
or if you are so inclined
Note: if you have a computer and it can be "told" once and forever remember it, then converting know-that into know-how by teaching it 100s of if-then rules was, at one point, considered a worthy research program.
But adding the epicycles of "tacit knowledge" and "rules followed unconsciously" clarifies nothing. The mistake was in the overly restrictive definition of "knowledge".
I've surveyed some of the critiques of the "tacit knowledge" concept in this article:
I think the most famous paper from this tradition is Gary Klein and Daniel Kahneman's A Failure to Disagree, which lays out the conditions necessary for expert intuition: https://www.fs.usda.gov/rmrs/sites/default/files/Kahneman200...
(The two are intellectual rivals, but they put aside their differences to write this piece, over a period of about 6 years, IIRC.)
If you want to get at a definitional debate about the computing applications, that is fine by me. If you want to argue about the philosophical problems with Polanyi's formulation, that is also cool. But understand that I don't particularly care for either debate. I am interested in instrumental outcomes. The discovery of tacit knowledge and the methods found in NDM have been incredibly useful to me in the pursuit of skill acquisition. This was mostly what I was getting at in the post.
Yup, no worries, I think it's a fine post in that regard. Just trying to separate your genuine insights into the practical problems faced by individuals with a certain social position (knowledge workers, aspiring entrepreneurs), and more general theories about the evolution of labor markets, technological change, and the political consequences thereof.
"NDM is a field of research that focuses on taking expert intuition (which I refer to as tacit knowledge in this piece), extracting it out of the heads of professionals and then creating training methods to enable less skilled operators to learn these tacit skills on their own. The methods are primarily associated with and deployed in the military."
I am only glancingly familiar with this work, but I think you've summarized it well. This basic project - of formalizing work procedures to allow for a shift in the relative amount of skilled versus unskilled labor input to a process - can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial revolution. Gaspard de Prony, Charles Babbage, F.W. Taylor (of "Taylorism" fame), and Herbert Simon (cited in the Klein/Kahneman paper) were all essentially concerned with this question. Harry Braverman and David Noble wrote interesting social histories on this theme, describing how this problem came to be seen as important, and how structuring work in this way - though it was eminently reasonable in the sort term for individual technical decision makers - might have deleterious effects in the long term for society as a whole.
In a way, your recommendations give voice to the desire of many knowledge workers to return to a model of skill acquisition that would have been familiar to the members of pre- and early- modern guilds. Apprenticeship and on-the-job experience was valorized over the "book learning" of "schoolmen".
One condition is that the you get quick feedback about your decisions. For example, if a surgeon makes a mistake then blood splatters. In programming, if you make a syntax error the compiler immediately complains. However, a design mistake might only bite you months or years later. That is a big obstacle for developing an intuition. However, if an apprentice programmer makes a design mistake. His master can give quick feedback.
I can imagine that the lack of such feedback not only results in slower learning. It might mean the non-apprentice programmer is unable to ever acquire an intuition for design no matter how many years of experience.
Yes! This is also worsened by the fact that changing jobs frequently is so common. This makes me appreciate my first job, where good design was a priority, so much more.
It also doesn't actually do much to explain that thesis, dismissing delivered practice with the quick an for shallowly-addressed claim that it only works in field with established pedagogy, which may be the case, but most of the fields that it dismisses deliberate practice for on this basis have established pedagogy (with, sure, some pedagogical controversies, but that's true if the field that it acknowledges have the requisite established pedagogy for deliberate practice, too, so it's not at all clear what, if anything, the distinction being drawn is), and doesn't actually do much to establish that NDM methods are particularly useful for developing tacit knowledge. Basically, the piece is an extended discussion of the idea of tacit knowledge, with the whole primary argument, to which most of the piece is only tangentially relevant, rushed through at the end as if it were an afterthought.
This is the actual definition of deliberate practice. As in, Ericsson explicitly says deliberate practice CAN ONLY exist in domains with a long tradition of pedagogical development.
Go and read the original papers by Ericsson. Or the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. Or his popular science book Peak.
One of the nice things about writing a blog is that you get to bring an audience along on a journey of discovery. In this case, you don't actually have to go very far — the blog has done the work for you. This is a 5k word-ish summary of Peak: https://commoncog.com/blog/peak-book-summary/ ... and this is a 5k word summary of all the criticisms arrayed against deliberate practice, also linked from the piece above. https://commoncog.com/blog/the-problems-with-deliberate-prac...
If you want to read about NDM techniques — surprise, surprise! It turns out that the techniques are described in about 10k words over at https://commoncog.com/blog/putting-mental-models-to-practice... and https://commoncog.com/blog/putting-mental-models-to-practice...
And those posts are also linked from the piece.
(Edited to remove snark).
But in Hambrick, Campitelli, and Macnamara's volume on expertise, they do a good job showing that he has not been consistent with definitions (e.g. 3 definitions: must have, sometimes must have, doesn't require a teacher).
Not a problem for your post, but I was pretty confused about what you were calling deliberate practice until reading this response.
One tangent comment to go with this: One of Klein's occasional coauthors, Robert Hoffman, co-wrote a book on expert weather forecasters that I really liked. Weather is hard to predict, but one thing they found that what the best forecasters did was to look at the data before looking at what the computer models predicted. Once they had an idea of what they thought the weather might look like, they compared with the model. This kept their skills sharp and ensured that they continued to learn.
There's a whole chapter in Peak where he tries to talk about what to do if you are in a field with badly developed pedagogical methods. It's basically a badly written copy of The Power of Intuition (Klein). I was incredibly dissatisfied with it, because I was mostly interested in putting DP to practice, and his recommendations were far from practicable. I wish he had just referred to Hoffman or Klein, both of them practitioners in NDM, and therefore both more familiar with attempts to design training programs for fields where no pedagogical rigour exist.
I know you're inclined to give Ericsson a pass, and pass things off as deliberate practice even when his definition clearly excludes said thing. But my view is that we should call a spade a spade and use the exact definitions the man used. If he thought it was good enough for his popular audience, it should be good enough for me.
I found the Klein book you mentioned more useful than Ericsson’s as well, that Fadde/Klein paper I mentioned was also pretty helpful. I need to reread both, and put them into practice more than I have. I read too much, and I don’t get the tacit knowledge that comes from experience...
Another good book is Surpassing Ourselves by Bereiter and Scardamalia. They studied how students developed writing skill. Their definition of expertise is a bit different than Ericsson’s, but I think it is more useful.
After some practice and time, I can feel my thinking rearranging itself around the concept until it's second nature. Personally it's a feeling I enjoy, part of the reason I like taking up new hobbies all the time.
In subjects I've tried to learn and teach, my experience is that talking to someone with a lot of such knowledge really only gives you an idea of the sub-topics and considerations you should try to understand better on your own. It is helpful in narrowing down what you should prioritize and maybe giving you a useful point of view to organize your thoughts from, but that doesn't save you from doing the thinking and understanding for yourself.
I agree that emulation helps somewhat by forcing you to make choices that are reasonable even if, as a beginner, you lack the knowledge to choose wisely yourself. But if the ultimate goal is to come up with new ideas using the knowledge, I think there's such a thing as too much emulation. You don't want to become a carbon copy of your mentor either.
I agree that deliberate practice and acquiring tacit knowledge are not the same thing. To me, deliberate practice is about repeating a certain activity -- one that you typically can describe in words to someone who doesn't already know it -- enough times that it's available to you as a tool, eg playing scales as a musician, times tables in elementary school math. Tacit knowledge has more to do with how you decide to apply those skills to best effect.
But my experience has been that they have kind of a symbiotic relationship. If you didn't have some tacit knowledge to begin with, you wouldn't know what to practice, or when you had practiced enough to be good. At the same time, it may not be possible to acquire enough tacit knowledge to become an expert if you don't have an immediate command of certain skills developed through deliberate practice. I.e. there's feedback -- more tacit knowledge should make your deliberate practice more effective, and better skills make it easier for you to acquire tacit knowledge.
To take just one well-studied example, in vision photons hit visual receptors in the retina, and then go through the optic nerve which is a complex computer that analyses the signals in stages, like picking out points, then lines, then shapes, and so on, and then it is sent to several different visual areas of the brain, each of which pulls out different features, like motion, colors, 3d shapes, faces, and emotional expressions, and then finally it arrives in consciousness. Something similar is true for every other sensation, and how they are integrated to give us our perception and understanding of the world.
As a consequence, children from birth learn all sorts of things without explicit instruction and often even much focal thought, include the great majority of the rules of language itself.
All of this is subjectively experienced as a sort of feel or intuition. It is described by philosophers such as Michael Polanyi and various phenomenologists. I studied with one of them, Eugene Gendlin, who developed a method called experiential focusing for helping people make use of their tacit knowledge (he called it felt meaning). You might want to take a look at his book Focusing.
One more point. The idea that all knowledge can be clearly explicated is an example of the denial of human finitudes that is common in much of Western philosophy, but that are affirmed by other schools Western philosophy, such as pragmatism, existential-phenomenology, and post-Wittgensteinian analytic philosophy.
'My point is that their explanations would not lead me to the same ability that they had.' is a very Wittgensteinian thing to say. See i.e. the parable of the wayward pupil in the Investigations on what role understanding/practice even play in the context of a statement like 'would not lead me to the same ability that they had'
'But the more I pushed, the more exceptions and caveats and potential gotchas I unearthed.' W argues that this is a result of our concept of what it means to understand. Can you name an idea where this doesn't hold? W uses a great example of your knowledge of the Natural Numbers. Just because you hadn't thought of the number 10324 beforehand, does that mean your knowledge didn't encompass it? Before you attempt to foist the problem onto mathematical logic (it doesn't work, but the answers become longer than an HN comment) consider your concept of the color 'red'. What shape is it? Did you a prior have in your mind the shape of red? Is there a color that I could show you which you might consider red and someone else would not?
The core problem is this idea that 'explanations' in the source are implicitly able to be fully specified or that any knowledge exists without practice. See i.e. W's theory of language for a mind blowing explanation.
I think the real question I would pose to the author is, what knowledge do you think qualifies as 'explicit'? I think you will find your answers supremely unsatisfying. If you don't, try Kripke's 'Wittgenstein's Paradox' and Goldfarb's (admittedly much more dense) 'Rule Following'
This definition is slightly wrong. Tacit knowledge can't be described in words alone, but it can be captured through words alone.
One of the reasons we built FWD:Everyone (https://www.fwdeveryone.com) was to capture the tacit knowledge contained within email conversations. When you can see the entire conversation, you learn how people interact with one another and you can learn to model your own communication based off of that. That knowledge isn't contained in any individual sentence, paragraph, or message, but rather as an emergent property that's only apparent in the context of an entire conversation or many conversations.
There is a ton of value in this that can never be captured in a wiki, for example.
This strikes me a little like "By reading lots of good code, you can learn to model your own code based on that". It probably helps, but a lot is dependent on context.
The blog post goes into this with the long quote about choosing tools and techniques for an appendectomy. How do you capture that sort of context in an email thread? Annotations like "Based on X and Y factors, I chose to write Z", where X and Y are not explicit in the email text?
I haven't looked too closely, but it seems to me that the primary value of these email threads (in terms of learning communication) is to provide a body of real-world examples - but there also needs to be applied experience (with feedback) with written communication for the lessons to really sink in.
I mean in terms of our tool, the knowledge is either already in an email or it isn't. It's meant for retaining knowledge that's already being created anyway. You certainly could purposely capture knowledge in email for the purpose of being viewable and searchable in our tool (and some people do), but in that case there may be other better tools.
When I see a new post from commoncog, I don't read it right away. I think "right need to carve out half hour of quiet uniterrupted time for that later".
It's one of the few I have on my mobile phone RSS reader, the others being quanta magazine, and another interesting blog I found through HN.
So that's my praise, I recommend you add it to your readers too :-)
This is a limitation of our brains and not fundamental property of knowledge or information.
In AI neural networks which can ride bikes or recognize objects are easily introspected and copied. In humans this isn't implemented ;)
* I watch you do it.
* You watch me do it.
* Then I do it.
I have to watch someone else undertake a task to understand it. After, I attempt to undertake the task and receive feedback from the individual whom I watched first. Then after I've gathered the knowledge I can do the task. The context I learned about this approach was when I learned to use a chainsaw. But it has served me extremely well in both learning and teaching other topics over the years.
I know there is https://www.apprenticeship.gov/ but I am thinking something more informal and online, e.g. a marketplace where you can match and pay $X/30 min. of quick and focused Q&A.
I've used it a couple times to get help with roadblocks and such..
Getting a second pair of eyes on your code is nice!
I feel fortunate to have stumbled into an organization where this was the case as a junior engineer. The company wasn't ever wildly successful, but I feel lucky to have worked with very smart people when I was very green, and couldn't make heads or tails anything.
Patience was certainly needed on their part I'm sure, and such frustration is likely what leads people to become pedagogical at times.
To throw out an easy counter-argument, we could say that Simulation/Programming is like comparing Words to an Image, aka nothing of the sort. Additionally, there is the difference between Simulation and Reality, where simulation simplifies or glosses over many elements of reality. Looking up the definition indicates that Passivity seems to be the key, and simulations are anything but passive.
To give a concrete example of what I mean, in my early career I worked at a defense contractor building a training simulator for a weapons platform. The training was to mimic the same training on a gun range. Soldiers were graded by the simulation as if it were the instructor with a sharp eye and a stopwatch. It tested everything from how long you held the trigger (at least three seconds), how you swiveled your head to scan for targets, identifying targets and relaying them to your vehicle commander, etc.
I would argue that it goes beyond Transmissionism, as it now corresponds far more to an actual reality than mere metaphors and words. However it does make me wonder where the line might be, if it even exists.
But it's all down to the type of knowledge involved in skills you have acquired such as biking or walking, and things where you can extoll an intuition versus explicit knowledge such as a pizza baking recipe.
I believe the key here is to focus learning on the overall activity (i.e. systems view) rather than the constituent individual pieces. Focusing on the latter just overwhelms you with too much detail leading to doubt and confusion. For example, in Software Development, if you try to focus on every single aspect like Correctness, Error handling, Generalization, Optimization etc. in the beginning you simply will never get anything done. Instead focus on just getting "a program" done using whatever knowledge you have. Once that is ready, then modify it deliberately for meeting all your other criteria.
Extending/patching that doesn’t fit in with tacit knowledge is also dangerous. React has done a great job of that, it looks much different than a few years ago, but the changed behaviors never felt “wrong” internally.
It's a good exercise to frequently try to verbalize your tacit knowledge. The alternative is to constantly be appealing to your own authority.
Lots of people have faulty tacit knowledge.
Furthermore, articles that downplay the importance of practice, to me, seem like a bad idea. In my experience, people who claim a high level of general comprehension (but not technical) tend to lack the ability to implement any facet of their "tacit knowledge" at even a basic level.
Don't talk about it, be about it.
Literally the point of a blog. That's why it's their blog.
Isiah Thomas was one of the best of all time, but was a disaster as a coach https://www.sbnation.com/2015/5/5/8553115/isiah-thomas-new-y...
I've studied martial arts and body work. Naturally, many of the skills involved are taught hands-on rather than through a verbally specified sequence of actions. And it's definitely true that balance or an effective stance can't be taught by just sequences of positive commands ("stand straight, chin out" or whatever). However, high level (or more effective) skills can be taught through a combination of hands-on direction and verbal direction telling the student to "explore", to "relax", to "be aware" - these verbal direction represent internal, non-verbal processes ("balance centers", etc) and tells the student to yield to these. That yielding lets these processes get the skill and knowing how to so yield lets the skill be available. It's not avoidable verbal but it's not a simple rationalistic recipe.
If nobody listens and respect you you can't be a good coach. This happened in Real Madrid with a coach that had been a mediocre player. The "top of the world starts" did not listen to this person because they did not admire or respected him.
In Rocky the film for example you see as Rocky gives an advice to a kid, before he is famous. The kid does not listen because "Who are you? A loser".
This could happen even if the person is a master, because of envy. I remember a man that was very successful with women, and wanting honestly to help others do the same, only to being rejected by others because they felt threatened or envied him so much.
I see this every day, when someone who is successful at something because he does something better than others. But others do not admit that this person is better creating rationalizations like "this person is so lucky", and then they will generalize even further "all success is luck", when they could not get it.
I know because I have learned a lot from those people and in some ways replicated their success. The only thing I needed to do was admiring that they were better than me at something, being humble at first, and that looks easy but it is very hard because it goes against your ego.
I took a skiing lesson from a master and he looked at me skiing and made me practice basic sky lessons: the kind novices take.
I remember thinking: WTF! I already know how to ski well!! But I forced myself into listening and doing exactly what he told me, even when it looked ridiculous and made no sense.
My skiing improved radically because of that.
It is a popular believe that being an expert on something doesn't mean you will be an expert on teaching that thing, but in this case it could also be that any number of implementations was possible, and the seniors had more clout or were more pushy.
I like the idea of discarding the results of exploratory processes that GeePaw Hill elaborates very well. It removes the incentive of trying to reuse artifacts that were created "while learning" and just bring back the lessons learned.
You or someone you know may very well become aware of (i.e., _come to know_) what are your personal defects (insecurities, unproductive behavioral predispositions, etc) -- but this is in no way _at all_ means that you will be able to _change_.
In fact, after coming out of the "fugue," I can have trouble with verbal articulation.
But when I am in the "fugue," I can actually design a pretty intense system, without writing down a thing.
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
Really interesting article.
Or rather the former trains the acquisition of the latter.
First of all, deliberate practice rests to a high degree on a) pre-existing knowledge on the structure of acquiring a skill and b) an established feedback standard that allows to evaluate your performance. These are obviously crucial aspects. If you don't know what characterizes expertise and if you don't know why you're not doing well - then it's difficult to make actual measurable progress. That said, it doesn't mean you can't become an expert at all in a field that does not have those elements currently available. It may just be that you need to put more effort into doing it, seek a mentor known for relevant skills or develop feedback mechanisms to evaluate your performance .
Thus, I don't think the distinction made between tacit knowledge and deliberate practice is really helpful. From my understanding, the concepts of "tacit knowledge" and of "deliberative practice" operate on two different levels. Tacit knowledge (or originally tacit knowing) refers to the implicit character of some knowledge. Its counterpart is explicit aka codified knowledge. Conflating deliberative practice with (the acquisition of) explicit knowledge seems counterproductive to me. It seems to me that the author wants to argue that deliberative practice only contributes to explicit knowledge.
I get that explicit knowledge may be needed to create learning environments (and gained before through codification of tacit knowledge) that respond well to the principles of deliberate practice. From my reading of Ericsson that does not mean, however, that deliberate practice only works to build up codified knowledge. Tacit knowledge is in itself a vague concept that is hard to grasp. I wouldn't be confident to assert that building up tacit knowledge happens without building up codified knowledge. Maybe someone knows more about that?
Another aspect of the article that concerns me represents the part about the acquisition of knowledge and expert systems. There seems to be another conflation of concepts. It is referred to Klein who (in reference to humans) warns about the overreliance on fixed procedures for decision-making. I agree with that but nevertheless I'm having a hard time with the argument in the article's context. For me this seems to be more of an argument about having a human making a decision than about the superiority of tacit knowledge over deliberative practice or even codified knowledge applied by a human. I get it, humans can build up tacit knowledge and therefore have an advantage over expert systems in previously unknown situations ... I just don't get the relevance for human acquisition of knowledge here which the article wants to be about.
A similar issue I have with the argument about the scope of deliberative practice and NDM as better alternative. Now I have to say I heard about the term NDM for the first time today (and I'm glad I got introduced, thanks!) but from what's written down in the article, it doesn't really seem to be in conflict with - or even that much qualitatively different compared to - deliberative practice: "you find a master, you work under them for a few years, and you learn the ropes through emulation, feedback, and osmosis". This seems to be possible under the concept of deliberate practice as well.
To get a better understanding, I've read another article from the same author  but I'm a bit confused. In the end, NDM just seems to offer more concrete procedures to acquire effective and adaptable mental models (in terms of deliberative practice) that help you to make better decisions. But that can't be the catch of NDM, is it?
 I'm currently reading Ericsson's book "Peak" and he mentions the Top Gun academy of the US Air Force as an example for the possibility to develop a "deliberative practice"-like environment.The program was designed to enhance figher pilots' performance by having those pilots surviving the initial air fights in Vietnam to become teachers to new pilots. Establishment of good practices took place through the constant exposure of the teachers to new recruits and constant training on usual fight situations.
Yeah, that was really helpful. I think the argument you make about 'fractionated pools of expertise' is actually the most important. I'm still a bit confused about the differences between "practice" and "decision-making" and their relationship to knowledge (either codified or tacit) but I guess that will now be part of my list of things I want to learn more about.
One of these is not like the others.
Part of why operationalization is so important in the hard sciences is because it gives us access to otherwise-inacessible things, including tacit knowledge. The only knowledge that is tacit for the typical person is the knowledge of how to move muscles. For example, to whistle, the tacit portion is the pursing of the lips, but the rest of it is music theory which can be communicated and taught using language.
Thats's not really true.
If you are a native English speaker, it might surprise you to learn that English adjectives have a default order. We normally say "the big red ball" but "the red big ball" sounds decidedly odd unless there's an explicit contrast ("No, not the blue one. I want the red big ball"). This is apparently taught in ESL classes, but neither I nor any of my native-speaker colleagues remember learning it in school.
You have an "intuitive" model of physics in your head that allows you to rapidly determine if piles of objects are stable without grinding through balance-of-forces calculations. It's not exact, and deviates from reality in interesting ways, but it's there. https://www.pnas.org/content/110/45/18327.short
You have all kinds of implicit priors that help you make sense of sensory input. You have some idea of the speed and smoothness with which things move, how an object's apparent size changes as you move towards or away from it and how it might look under different lighting conditions. People share some, but not all of these priors, and they're hard to elicit, hence the endless discussion about The Dress that was either black/blue or white/gold.
My broader point (which I made poorly) is that native levels of language proficiency require a mix of explicit and implicit learning. There are certainly explicit rules for verb conjugation and agreement. Some things can be learned either way, like adjective order. Others seem to be mostly implicit: I can't give you a general rule for why "I asked her to marry me and she agreed" sounds fine but *"I asked her to marry me and she concurred" sounds weird.
I gather that part of the tacit-knowledge movement is to talk about knowledge that cannot be put into words. The example of how to move a muscle is extremely instructive: There is no sequence of words that will allow a person to examine and select the correct bundles of nerves for moving a muscle, and instead a person simply must learn to do it somehow. Even then, if somebody does something like isolating grouped muscle movements, they might be able to explain in words how to fine-tune control over some muscles.
Intuitive physics may be a stronger example: the point is that it's not "real" physics where you numerically evaluate the statics and centers of mass. It's a set of heuristics that let you rapidly (and not always successfully) determine if a pile of books is stable, using some internal model of the world.
Ditto for sensory input. You have all these built-in principles (or priors or biases) that have evolved over millions of years to help you make sense of ambiguous or impoverished sensory input. These are also mostly implicit.
We can certainly name these effects talk /about/ them, and even probe them with careful experiments....but we can do that to bike-riding too.
I learned more about how metal works in 2 months in a machine shop than i did in 4 years of undergrad and 5 years of grad school.
"Knowing that" is nice, but it is not the same as "Knowing how", and one cannot beget the other.
Our systems were pretty unstable, and the most stressful part of the job was getting paged at 4am when everything was falling apart, customers couldn't use the app, multiple analysts would be sending messages asking "what's going on?", and as the on-call engineer, I happened to be the last line of defense (the system wasn't managed by a devops team).
In that moment, there's a lot of stuff that has to be done quickly:
- orient yourself and figurate out what's going on (even in a sleep-deprived state)
- prioritize mitigation over root-cause analysis
- communicate early and often with the stakeholders present
This isn't stuff one can pickup by reading a "runbook". It took years of working with the systems, absorbing knowledge from my senior co-workers, and learning from past mistakes to get to a point where these priorities became in-grained in the way I approach outages.
So from my own experience, I would disagree with the definition that tacit knowledge is purely muscle memory or that it can't be improved. One's mindset can certainly evolve and I would consider that as "gaining" tacit knowledge.
I would even say something like music theory can be tacit knowledge. If you talk with musicians that do a lot of improvisation, they can certainly talk to you about music theory, but they're rarely "thinking" about music theory when they play. Just intellectually telling someone how notes/chords relate to one another doesn't transmit that "feeling" one needs to create great music.
-- Donald Knuth