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Post: Blog2_Post

Clear, quick feedback: Preconditions and principles for obtaining mastery

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

Part 2:

Principle #1: High quality feedback

How do we know if a field is defined or undefined? You can tell by asking the question, “am I getting quick, clear feedback?” If the feedback is quick and clear, you’re probably in a well defined field and mastery is obtainable. You see this clearly with sports.

Take 3 point shooting in basketball. It’s pretty clear if the ball goes in or not. With that quality of feedback you can devise practice methods to become better at shooting 3 pointers.

However, in many areas you aren’t getting clear feedback. The classic examples is radiologist. Radiologists are physicians who specialize in reading scans of cancer. However, the scans are really difficult to read and most radiologist don’t call you up six months later to check their prognosis. In the absence of clear and quick feedback it’s pretty obvious why various studies have shown that radiologists are often wrong. They are basically gurus. What this means is if you’re in a field without clear quick feedback, the leaders are probably gurus, not experts.

However this also means lots of areas are definable if we do the extra work to get the feedback. Dr. John Gottman, famed marriage researcher, has devised several methods for predicting the future of a relationship. Not only can he predict if a couple will divorce, he can also predict when they will divorce. Before him the field was full of gurus with lofty but wrong ideas about how relationships work.

How did Gottman gain this magical ability to predict the future? He turned his lab into an apartment, invited couples to stay the weekend, videotaped everything they said and did, coded everything they said and did, and followed them around for decades. Once he had all the data he then look for patterns.

He got the feedback, defined an undefined field, and became G.O.A.T. of marriage researchers.