How Long Does it Take to Learn a Skill

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 11554 Views

A Skills Culture is about committing to learn and apply skills properly. As I rally practitioners and learners around this mindset, important questions someone might ask are: How long does it take to learn a skill? How long is the commitment? These are good questions for someone who is expected to spend time and resources towards learning a skill.

Before getting into the details, it is worth defining the commitment - a central premise behind Skills Culture:

You commit to learning a skill each step of the way. This could be on a project or even a task level. You might learn a skill for your own personal needs or wants, what’s needed for a project or job, or what’s needed for a career. Regardless, you do not have to become a master of the skill. (If it is not required learning) pivot into learning other skills if you are unsuccessful or do not want to continue.

In this way, a Skills Culture is a very much a growth mindset. Someone learning a new skill is not hampered with a preconception that they must become an expert, but rather remains in control of their learning experience. And that initial motivation is there. Most people believe they can learn a new skill if they put in the necessary time and effort.

The biggest factor in the time it takes to learn a skill is a desired level of expertise. Do you want to become a master? One benchmark is 10,000 hours to master a skill. This translates to about 9 years (consider 5 days a week, spending 4 hours a day).

Do you need it for a 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-hour threshold for acquiring skills fits well with a Skills Culture. Josh Kaufman sums the sentiment 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.”

But basing a skill competency solely on time has problems. Someone with abilities or talents seemingly masters skills faster than someone without them and should also be able to complete more difficult tasks. Skills Label is ideal system to track the development of skills. Skill Points measure learning gains in completing tasks. They are calculated by a proprietary algorithm within the Skills Label framework. Over a period, the sum of Skill Points determines how far along a person is in developing a skill. If a person gets 1,000,000 points, then he or she has mastered the skill; but of course, this still takes a long time to accomplish.

Skill Points is based on a number of factors, including time. So, someone with more ability or talent can skip to more challenging tasks and get credit for them – essentially moving up on the learning curve.

Skills Label is also a great way for learners to choose what tasks they want to work on. Each learning label is shown on a tiled dashboard where all of the information is present to make a ROI decision to consume a resource. The investment values are time and cost. The return value is Skill Points.