Adaptive Expertise

adaptive-expertAnother superb reference through the PHYSLNR list: adaptive expertise.  There are two kinds of expert: the efficient speedy guy, like an abacus master or a rubriks cube solver.  But there is another kind, the innovator.

The ideas is to aim for learning to product adaptive experts – and which trajectory works best?

Daniel Swartz suggests encouraging (by choice of activity and teaching strategies) the innovation > efficiency path is better.  Highly efficient learners seem less able to learn innovation than highly innovative learners can learn efficiency.


And from:, a blog post on a talk by Bransford:

Another part of expertise involves change and adjustment. Adaptive expertise – researched by Hatano and Inagaki. Bransford sometimes works with Boeing employees. For a long time, the company was really good at making efficient, faster prop planes. But eventually, you hit a brick wall; you can’t go any further. You have to innovate and go a different route – in this case, jet engines. But making this leap allows you to push the envelope even further. Now they’re saying aluminum is too heavy, so they make the jump to composites. This is a part of expertise that isn’t about getting better progressively with practice. It’s being able to change thinking and innovate.

Anders Ericsson’s work says that if you want to be super good at something, you have to continuously resist automatize your methods. Look at Tiger Woods. He was great for a while, then he dropped off for a bit, then recalibrated his swing. Because his body grew, the swing he used as a teenager no longer made sense. He could have chosen not to recalibrate, but instead he hires a coach, actually loses efficiency for a while, but then gets back on track. Recalibration lets you reach a higher level of performance.

THis view of learning, expertise, innovation and adaptablity has something to say about change and transtion processes as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *