Are you on the Okay Plateau?

I am curious about how people learn, particularly why some people excel and whether they have an innate talent or is there something that they do that pushes them achieve more.

I was intrigued when I came across the video below from Joshua Foer in which he describes what he refers to as the ‘the okay plateau’ and suggests that avoiding this plateau is essential if you are to reach a level of mastery.

What is the okay plateau?

Foer describes the model developed by Paul Fitts and Michael that describes three phases of learning:

Cognitive – Identification and learning of the component parts of the skill being learned
Associative – practicing the skill and using feedback to improve performance
Autonomous – skill is developed and becomes second nature.

Once you reach the autonomous phase you run the risk of feeling that you are good enough, slowing any further improvement.

With photography it’s quite easy to reach the autonomous phase, to become fluent enough with the technical aspects of photography to make competent photographs. To move beyond this stage to make great photographs involves staying in the associative phase for as long as possible.

So how do you keep in the associative phase?

Engage deeply – spend time really looking at the images that you make, what you were trying to make and figure out how to close the gap. Spend time reviewing the work of the masters to make sure that you are familiar with the history of your field. Find a circle of trusted advisors that will give you sound feedback and push you further.

I’m coming to realize that while I may create my photographs alone being part of a community is important to keep me moving forward. If you don’t have a circle of friends to give you feedback how will you build one? I’d be interested in hearing you thoughts.