Meaning Part 2: Navigating the Conscious Competence Spectrum


In a recent 4MAT Train the Trainer program, the conscious competence model was explored. I have been unable to find the definitive source on the Conscious Competence model. If you have a source, please share it with me in the comments field.

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

1. Unconscious Incompetence – “I didn’t even know that I didn’t know that.”

2. Conscious Incompetence – “There is a lot that I need to learn about this.”

3. Conscious Competence – “I can do this, if I focus.”

4. Unconscious Incompetence – “I do this without even thinking about it.”

We design learning experiences to move learners further along the competency spectrum. First, the learner must have an awareness of what they don’t know and that there is room for growth.  If you have ever tried to “teach” somebody something they believe they are already know, you know this is a not-to-be-missed stop in the learning journey.

Next, we must manage learner overwhelm that can emerge when a learner realizes how much there is to be learned. Strong organization of the content and practice is important in this phase.

Third, the learner moves into the world and practices. Coaching and ongoing feedback is important here.

Finally, the learner arrives into unconscious application. When the learner becomes a subject matter expert, they quickly forget that what is obvious to them is not so obvious to the rest of us mere novices.

This is where effective subject matter interview techniques become critical. Needs analysis is focused on figuring out how we move novices down the competency spectrum. To figure out what content must be included, we have to get into the minds of the experts. We will talk more about how we do this in the next installment.

By the way, I couldn’t resist sharing the Star Wars poster found on Demotivate Us. Definitely, a classic “I didn’t even know that I didn’t know that” moment.

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