Friday, January 16, 2009

Unconscious Compentence 1: Unconscious Incompetence

I've been thinking about the concept of Unconscious Incompetence and how it applies to our profession.

I've looked and looked, but I can't find an original source for the concept of "Unconsicous Competence." Wikipedia has some notes, but I assume they're written by Nazis who are trying to change history, so that doesn't count.

- - - - -

The four-step process that takes us from "unconscious incompetence" to "unconscious competence" looks like this:

1. Unconscious Incompetence

2. Conscious Incompetence

3. Conscous Competence

4. Unconscious Competence

The first stage in the process is called Unconscious Incompetence.

Unconscious Incompetence is the stage at which you don't know what you don't know. You don't know the limits of the area of knowledge you seek to understand.

Here's a great example: I ask job applicants to rate themselves on a variety of technologies. Invariably, everyone gives themselves top ranks on DNS. After a little probing, we find that most of them know exactly this:

- Gateway/router IP
- DNS 1
- DNS 2


Truth is, they don't know any more about Domain Name Services than the average used car salesman. But they know one little thing so well that they think they know everything there is to know about DNS.

They are unconsciously incompetent. They don't even know how much they don't know.

This stage in awareness has two elements. First, and most importantly, the so-called technician is completely unaware of how much there is to learn about the topic at hand. Second, the technician is unaware that they have a great deal to learn.

At some level, you can't blame someone for not knowing what they don't know.

But if this person really wants to become a computer tech, they have to change those two elements. They have to become aware of what they don't know, and they have to accept that they don't know it.

When you glance at someone else's profession and say "That looks easy," you are unconsciously incompetent about that profession. Some people would say that you just don't know what you're talking about. And that's true.

Unconscious incompetents affect us in three ways:

First, the unconscious incompetent technicians boldy go about town selling their services and giving our profession a bad name.

Second, we frequently have clients who are unconscious incompetents. They don't know how to evaluate our proposals or work.

Third, sometimes these two interact. Unconscious incompetent technicians talk to our unconscious incompetent clients. Then the client comes to us and says "My Cousin Larry's a real whiz. He said I could make electricity with my hands if I have the right software."

Luckily, if you take an interest in something, you cannot stay unaware of how complicated that thing is. In other words, once you start to learn about a subject, you become conscious about how much you don't know.

The next step in the awareness process is to become aware of what you don't know. That's called Conscious Incompetence.

We'll talk about that next.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!