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August 25th, 2013

Is It Really "Unique ABILITY"?

By Ron Nakamoto

This article by Malcom Gladwell about the "10,000 hour rule" that he popularized in his book "Outliers" got me thinking about a Strategic Coach concept called "unique ability".  For a successful entrepreneur, unique ability is ostensibly what the entrepreneur does that makes them successful; it's who they are.  But Gladwell concludes in this article that:

"No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent, I wrote: 'achievement is talent plus preparation.' But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that 'the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.' In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals."

I did a little research on the word "ability" and found a couple of interesting definitions.  One in particular talked about the physical or mental power to do something and secondarily "skill, expertise, or talent".  Adding Gladwell's insights to this definition, I think of "unique ability" as a present description of current "mastery" (like the chess grandmasters described in Gladwell's article).  I also looked up "capability" and the differences between "ability" and "capability".  It was interesting to me that in one definition I found, "capability" was described as having power AND ability.  In another, "capability" implied unrealized potential.'

So what?

I think that "unique ability" is a good way to understand what's made one successful.  But I think that "unique capability" is much more interesting and relevant.

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Sports, Complexity, and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule
In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals. Nobody walks into an operating room, straight out of a surgical rotation, and does world-class neurosurgery.

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