Watching YouTube Tutorials Probably Won't Make You an Expert -- But Doing This Might

Research finds we overestimate our own abilities after watching how-to videos.

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Watching YouTube Tutorials Probably Won't Make You an Expert -- But Doing This Might
Image credit: triloks | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Staff
Insights Editor
2 min read

The ready availability of online video tutorials means anyone can learn how to do anything. Right?

Actually, maybe not. According to new research described in Harvard Business Review, merely watching someone do something can lead to an overinflated sense of one’s abilities to match that skill.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Anything Faster

In a series of experiments, the researchers tasked participants with watching videos of experts performing different skills -- from moonwalking to completing a computer game -- then asked how well the participants thought they could do the skill. The participants all greatly overestimated their own abilities to perform, especially when they watched the video multiple times.

When starting your business, you’re likely doing a lot of the heavy lifting yourself, and may not be able to hire an expert to do every task. And there’s nothing wrong with relying on your own ingenuity (and a little help from the internet) to get things done -- so long as you don’t get overconfident about your new abilities.

Related: Science Says You Can Do This Simple Action to Boost Your Memory

The researchers outlined a few steps to actually master the skills you see on YouTube:

1. Take the time to practice: While you may not need 10,000 hours to master a skill, you need to recognize you won’t be an expert immediately, and plan your practice schedule accordingly.

2. Break it down into smaller pieces: Not only will this help improve your chances of mastering the overall skill, but separate research indicates it will give you a feeling of making progress towards your goal.

3. Start doing right after watching: If you wait to try out the new skill, you’re likely losing some of the nuances and technique. So, what are you waiting for? Go make that Excel spreadsheet, rehearse your Steve Jobs-style presentation or whatever it is you need to do to take your business to the next level.

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