Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unconscious Incompetence

Unconscious incompetence was a term I was introduced to last week at a sales training course.  It has taken a while, but over time I have come to appreciate training.  Training, or practice, as sports types know it, is not easy.  It is not meant to be easy.  It is meant to make you uncomfortable and I have learned to embrace being uncomfortable.  At least being uncomfortable in practice, or training, because that is when I learn the most and the mistakes I make do not count.
Farmers are quick to embrace production type training because it is easy.  I suggest they should embrace training in other areas, like business or human resources or presentation skills.  Some of you have done this and it shows.  I would humbly suggest a sales skills course as well.  I don't mean a skills course that teaches you how to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but a skills course that deals with the physchology of selling, because we all have to sell something.  If you disagree, you may be unconsciously incompetent.

If you haven't guessed already, unconscious incompetence means that you really stink at something, but you have no idea how badly you stink.  If you want to find out what you are unconsciously stupid at, ask your spouse.  Prepare to feel uncomfortable.
Raising the bar one notch puts you in the category of being consciously incompetent.  At this level you at least understand what you stink at and can take action to correct it.  The next step in the improvement process is to become consciously competent.  You have now become competent, but you have to concentrate to complete the job well.  The ultimate goal is to become unconsciously competent.  You no longer have to think about the task at hand, you just do it and do it very well.

I saw a clear example of this process when I attended a Detroit Red Wing vs Vancouver Canuck hockey game last Thursday night.  The two best teams in the NHL put on a great show.  Vancouver won in a shoot out.  The thing that impressed me most was, even at times during the game when ordinary hockey players would be in full panic mode, these players never showed a hint of panic.  They were fully unconsciously competent at playing hockey for the best teams in the world's best hockey league.

It involves much more than skill alone.  They achieve this level because they practice more than they play.  They also practice hard, the same way that they play.  They understand the value of practice and work hard to stay good at what they do best, while improving specific weaknesses. 
Practice or training, to use a sales term, is something we could all embrace more.  I only wish I had embraced it more when I was younger.

1 comment:

  1. It has been said that amateurs practice until they finally can get it right. Professionals on the other hand, practice until they no longer can get it wrong. Unconscious competence!!! Thanks for a great posting Russ. You nailed it. – Richard Cressman