Malcolm Gladwell's short essay in the August 21, 2013 issue New Yorker magazine is actually intended as a rebutall to criticisms directed against his 2008 book Outliers. Gladwell's study of the role intensive and protracted study and practice play in sports as well as in business, the arts, law, science and many other professional endeavors was seen by some as refuting the role of natural ability in success. The so-called "ten-thousand-hour rule" that is at the core of Gladwell's thesis was drawn from earlier research conducted by Herbert Simon and William Chase in a paper they wrote in 1973. In his recent essay, Gladwell quotes Simon and Chase:
"There are no instant experts in chess -- certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade's intense preoccupaton with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions . . ."
As is common with theses like that submitted by Simon and Chase and supported by Gladwell in Outliers, the suggestion that one factor -- in this case, thousands of hours of practice or study -- plays a more dominant role in success than another factor -- natural born or innate skill or intelligence -- proved contentious to those who believe these researchers are over-emphasizing one at the expense of the other. Gladwell's rebuttal is intended to address those criticism by reiterating that he is not ignoring the role of talent. Rather, as he writes, "No one succeeds at a high level without innat talent." "The ten-thousand-hour research," Gladwell adds, quoting his own earlier study, "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'."
Gladwell uses as examples the Beatles, whose innate talent cannot be questioned, but whose greatest musical achievements occurred well-into their careers and following thousands of hours of writing and performing ("There's a reason the Beatles didn't give us "The White Album" when they were teenagers). Similarly, he notes that gifted athletes who don't practice -- in effect, fail to demonstrate a commitment to excellence on the practice field -- seldom achieve greatness.