Learning Unconscious Competence
Do you know about the consciousness-competence matrix? It is a theory of learning that outlines our path from poor performance without awareness to performing well without self-consciousness. We move from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence.
In other words, before we begin to gain a new skill, we are unaware of our inability to successfully complete it. I recently worked with Margaret, who wanted to improve the sound of her voice. After facilitating a webinar she listened to the recording and was dismayed; she didn’t realize her voice sounded so harsh and nasal. This movement from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence is often what prompts people to seek training. My first approach is to help clients become even more aware of their current skill level. Sometimes they perceive that they are getting worse when they are simply becoming more conscious of their incompetence. For a free consultation to help uncover opportunities for improvement, contact us!
Spirits lift when clients move toward competence, albeit a competence that can only be achieved using a high level of focus. Because we have limited cognitive resources, this is often where training and therapy fail. We are successful when we are earnestly practicing, but once we enter the real world, we cannot maintain our focus.
Ultimately we want to reach the state of unconscious competence, which is another word for habit. The good news is that our brains are able to create new pathways with the right input. Do you know the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? I disagree. A neurologist I know has turned this idea on its head. He says, “Any dog, any age, any trick.” So don’t ever think that you are too old or a skill is too difficult. With consistent practice and patience, you can move from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. Let us know if we can help!
For more on the four stages of competence, visit: