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Saturday, 1 February 2014

You don't know what you don't know

Earlier in the week I was passenger in a car using my mobile phone as a sat nav. As a result we were both introduced to a new, more direct, route to our destination. 

Isn't that what we often do in life - do what we know and what works well for us, whilst remaining oblivious to the options to do things better, quicker or easier.

I was reminded of this again when having a joint "sharing" session on Microsoft with a friend. I was sharing how I use PowerPoint and she was sharing how she uses Excel. I don't think either of us considered ourselves to be novices in the programmes and yet we both learnt so much. Yes we had specific questions we wanted to be answered but the greatest learning came from the shortcuts we saw the other taking "hang on a minute how did you do that?" was a common utterance during our session. 

The learning ladder explains what is going on. 


When we're at the bottom of the ladder and unconsciously incompetent we don't know what we don't know, and are unaware of the potential and possibilities. Then we realise what we don't know and move to conscious incompetence. This awareness often acts as a motivator to take action. As we learn the new skill we then become consciously competent, and slowly as the new skill moves into our unconscious we become unconsciously competent.

For those who have learnt to drive its easy to see the stages you went through along the way. Moving from not knowing what you didn't know, to suddenly realising there was soooo much to learn, to then being very aware of every little thing you were doing (steering, accelerator, brake, mirrors (yes all of them). At the same time as noticing the road conditions and what the other road, and pavement, users were up to. Finally you get to the point where you get to your destination and wonder how you got there. 
 
The stages that are the most "dangerous" are when we're unconscious. 

Unconscious incompetence means we have no understanding that there may be something we don't know. Which means we don't look for the options, nor take action to explore new ways of doing things. Which is what we had been doing when using Excel and PowerPoint, and when driving that route. 

Unconscious competence means we find it difficult to teach others and take for granted what we know. We assume that the patterns we've developed are the most effective means of doing what we're doing. We forget why we do it this way and just do it. 

Whilst staying conscious of our level of awareness for a task can be tiring (because it's using up conscious brain power) its certainly a useful means of being in an optimum position to remain open to new information and new ways of doing things.

Where are you unconsciously incompetent and how might you raise your awareness to ensure you're more effective* in an area in your life? 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in purchasing
Alison@thepurchasingcoach.co.uk 07770 538159

* When reviewing the need for change its always useful to consider your current situation. If you're achieving what you want in life and you're doing it in a way that positively supports your mental, emotional and physical well being then its simple and no change is needed. The key is noticing dissatisfaction, ineffectiveness, frustration, anger, tiredness, stress or difficulty in achieving what you want. These are all clues that a change in behaviour could provide some benefit, and therefore it might just be worth the effort to take action and try something different. 

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