with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

Listen on

In this Best of Series episode of The Inner Chief podcast, we feature Dr Lia DiBello Ph.D on debunking the 10,000 hour mastery rule through accelerated learning, and how this will drastically improve business outcomes.

I interviewed Lia for this podcast in 2018, when she was the President and CEO of WTRI, an organisation that builds cutting-edge cognitive science into products that can improve performance in business. Currently, she is the Chief Science Officer for ACSILabs.

She has developed many innovative non-verbal methods of assessing skill and business judgement among executives, such as the FutureView™ Profiler, which has been recognized as a theoretical and methodological breakthrough in executive intelligence.

Lia is best known for the development of an activity-based “strategic rehearsal” that has been shown to greatly accelerate learning through cognitive reorganisation, in some cases by several months.

She received her Ph.D in cognitive psychology at CUNY Graduate School in New York, and her work at WTRI has attracted 17 research funding awards from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and The Russell Sage Foundation.

In this episode we talk about:

✅  Unlocking your potential for accelerated learning

✅  How it is possible to cut the 10,000 hour rule of mastery down to 16 hours in a business context

✅  The number one mistake most leaders make in their learning that is costing them

✅  Using learning to drastically improve business outcomes.

Connecting with Dr Lia DiBello Ph.D

You can reach Lia on LinkedIn.

Books and resources

“The brain doesn't actually have a sense of time; it has a sense of trial and error cycles.”


On doing martial arts from an early age

  • I'd go next door to Mrs. McMahon and I would tell her a story about my life, what I did that morning and I would tell a different lady the same story and they would hear different things and I thought that was very interesting that people had a mental life, that just because you told them something it didn't mean that they didn't have their own mental filter through which they experience their lives.
  • I did start to think that it probably all had the same roots, that cultural attitudes probably weren't really attitudes, they were probably mental models that had some sort of constructive roots, that people have a theory of life and that the outcome that attitudes towards certain groups or gender or whatever are actually outcomes that are a result of a theory of what's right or wrong or different categories
  • A mental model is … the best way to put it is that we don't really have access to reality per se as human beings. We only have our interpretation of the inputs of our perceptions and we make sense of the inputs through some sort of framework. So in a way we always have a simulation of the world in our heads and in order to make the simulation orderly we have a mental model, which is a kind of theory of reality that guides it.
  • It's a really good example and mental models can really get in the way of understanding something that's right in front of you, like the fact that the world is not flat. So for tens of thousands of years nobody would take a ship very far in the ocean because they were absolutely convinced they would fall off the edge.
  • An intuitive expert is a person whose mental model allows them to see things other people can't see.
    it's almost like an expert sees colours that other people can't see.
  • So a business expert is somebody who through experience and through iterative trial and error has developed an in depth understanding of the business domain where they can see trends and they can read in the tea leaves or in the indicators events and forward simulate patterns in his head or her head that are coming that other people are blind to.
  • So basically an expert is a person who can see things that other people can't see in the same landscape. What I study is how people get there. They're not born that way. It's through a process of experience and learning from experience and learning to decode patterns. Accelerated expertise is the process through which that becomes accelerated and basically without getting into too much detail, there are certain mechanisms in the brain that are responsible for the development of expertise and we have tapped into them and we accelerate the rate at which you get to those stages by using our technology.
  • The brain doesn't actually have a sense of time. It has a sense of trial and error cycles. It's actually very similar to deep learning in AI.
  • So basically the brain requires cycles of trial and error to get to levels of expertise. It takes about 10,000 for those trial and error cycles to happen by themselves, basically going through life, having things happen, learning from it.You know you're putting along and then something happens again and you learn from it. If you were to compress time and accelerate the cycles and pack them all into a shorter amount of time you get the same effect
  • So and it's based on a very simple principle, which is the brain does not like to be wrong. So if you do something and it doesn't work, if you have a mental model that predicts that you're gonna do something and it doesn't result in what your brain thought it would result in and you get some feedback that it didn't work, the brain doesn't like that.
  • Our adaptive unconscious learns 200,000 times faster than our conscious awareness and how you activate your adaptive unconscious is with compressed time. So for example, if you want to learn something in an accelerated fashion, what you do is you do your trial and error cycles really quickly and don't give yourself time to think. This automatically triggers the part of your brain that's an autopilot. So it activates the part of your brain that does what you would do automatically, without reflection or without hesitation. That part of your brain is the part that you want to reprogram, especially if you're an athlete and that you want to retrain and condition. So that part of your brain learns a lot faster than your conscious awareness and probably what's happening at a preconscious level is you are running millions of cycles at once, you just can't be aware of it. So everything you've ever tried in your whole life is being applied to that problem.
  • We say, “Okay, from nine to five today, we're gonna drive ourselves crazy and try everything we can as fast as we can to get the goal and not worry about whether or not we're right. We're gonna try every wild ass thing we can thinking of.”
  • With 16 hours of doing in a rehearsal virtual environment and getting all the data, you can be pretty confident that it's gonna work in real life and it does. You do change what you're gonna do at the end. You learn enough to know that what you thought was gonna work isn't gonna work and you come up with a better solution.
  • They think they have to know the answer rather than admitting they don't know and asking themselves what they have to do to find out the answer.
  • As a scientist you can't have fun having all the answer. Then you're not a good scientist anyway. It's much more fun to be in love with the question.
  • So each person's brain has more computing power than all the computers in the world. Every idiot is smarter or has more going on than all the computers in the world I mean I feel like I was born to be what it do and every time I had an opportunity to jump a couple steps on the path I just did it.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • Make mistakes, lots of them.


Deal hope,