What is the downside of expertise? The benefit of beginning? Watch this short video and read below for further insights. Please share your comments and questions, as we know your words and ideas can benefit others!
In this video, we touch on the “Stages of Competence,” which was introduced in the mid ’70s by Gordon Training International and developed by Noel Burch. This work outlined four stages, or levels, of psychological awareness during the learning process. This model has served me for many years and can help you more efficiently attain new skills and awareness.
Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know something, but haven’t tried it, or don’t have a strong inclination to understand. Ignorance is bliss, and you fail to recognize the gap between your present abilities and what it takes to be successful.
Conscious Incompetence – After some exposure or initial trial, you become engaged and aware of your experience or skill deficit. Here, you make a conscious or unconscious decision to adapt (develop higher understanding and learn the skills) or avoid (identify with the failure, and make no further attempts). Those who choose the latter option shut down the learning process.
KEY POINT: This is the phase I am referring to when I describe the “Beginner’s Mind.” I believe this is less about actual ability and experience and more about the approach to learning, generally. There always remain higher levels of excellence to pursue. Those who consistently seek to understand areas of incompetence, despite their present success or skills, will continue to undertake the “joyful struggle,’ and progress towards higher levels of their infinite potentials.
Conscious Competence – You’ve put in the time, developed the skills and understanding, and you new are able to articulate or execute the intended result when focused on the challenge. Results may still be inconsistent, depending upon the level of skill and confidence. But conscious competence represents the reward attained by invested effort and the genuine pursuit of greater knowledge and ability.
Unconscious Competence – Over time, through practice and application in a variety of circumstances, you develop comprehensive understanding of your subject and skills. You not only understand the methods that work, but the deeper principles and reasoning behind them. With repetition, you internalize and skills and assumptions that lead to success, moving them from active cognition to subconscious routines and reactions. This is the psychological often referred to as “flow.” It can be extremely rewarding and difficult to maintain. Unexpected changes and new scenarios can disrupt this state. This is why adapting to change can be hard for those who’ve been established in their success.
Those who consider themselves to be masters may miss opportunities to change and grow until they are confronted with new realities that make their competence obsolete. We can guard against that by embracing a beginner’s mind.