The first time I visited Liverpool, I was fascinated by a piece of street art I found whilst wandering the city. It read: ‘The average person thinks they’re more intelligent than average. Do you think you are more intelligent than the average person?’.

Do You Think You Are More Intelligent Than the Average Person

It made me reflect and certainly made me smile.

As humans, learning is part of our nature. We learn how to crawl, speak and never stop learning throughout life.

Look at you, you’re a clever guy, I can tell! You did your BSc, MBA, MSc, PMP, MSP or whatever acronyms you have after your email signature.

You went on project management courses, change management workshops, you did coaching sessions, you learned a little bit of coding on your own, and even got your Mandarin certificate by taking classes at the weekends.

Your hard work has been recognised by your peers and by your boss. Let’s say it: you are a star!

However, make no mistake: the competencies you learned in the past will not suffice for the companies of today, not to mention for the future.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and is creating a perfect storm, able to disrupt not just the traditional business models but also transform how we think and operate in the labour market.

It has been said that machines will replace humans and new categories of jobs will emerge.

New skillsets, toolsets, and a complete new mindset will be required.

It is thus important to remember the wise words of Alvin Toffler: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’.

Get ready for some new learning. Starting today!

The Conscious-competence Learning Model

With several attributed origins, the conscious-competence learning model was born in the 70’s and represents an interesting approach to the learning process of individuals, very useful for Project Managers who want to support learning in their project teams. It is based on four stages or levels, categorised as follows:

The Conscious-competence Learning Model

Level 1 – Unconsciously Incompetent (you don’t know that you don’t know)
In this first stage of learning, the individual is ignorant, with a lack of knowledge or skills in the subject of analysis but without being aware of it. Either because he or she is unaware of the existence of different realities aside from his/hers or simply because of their arrogance.

The saying goes that sometimes “ignorance is a blessing,” so this excessive, unjustified trust of ones self-ability can be a barrier in progression to the next level. For this transition to be successful, humbleness is required, that is, the ability to recognise and accept that we do not know everything and that there is still much out there to be learned.

This is perhaps the hardest stage to overcome, resembling Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where prisoners were unaware of another reality. For a Project Manager dealing with a team member in this stage, an extra dose of understanding is required in order to, subtly but incisively, create awareness in the individual that there is a learning gap to be overcome.

Level 2 – Consciously Incompetent (you know that you don’t know)
At this level, the individual acts and thinks as a reflective practitioner (Schon, 1959), that is, she/he applies hindsight and reflection to his own working practices. Realising that there are gaps in knowledge, where a Socratic moment of “I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing” occurs. In extreme, an emotional shock can happen as we verify that there are others more competent than us.

Individuals will find themselves in a situation of discomfort, and attentive Project Managers need to act quickly to minimise impact on the individual’s motivation. In this stage of the learning process, intelligence and curiosity are essential to move to the next level, that is, sufficient time and support should be provided to allow for discovery to happen. Similarly, the Project Manager should encourage the quest for new knowledge and show an understanding and tolerance towards mistakes made whilst in learning mode.

Level 3 – Consciously Competent (you know that you know)
At level 3 of the matrix, the individual acquires new knowledge and skills, putting learning into practice and gaining confidence in the tasks carried out.

They are in a state of awareness in which they know what they know, they are aware of their competencies and desire to improve them. To transition to the final stage, time and practice are key ingredients, so the Project Manager should provide individuals in this stage with autonomy and sufficient opportunities to improve their skills.

Level 4 – Unconsciously Competent (you don’t know that you know)
Practice make habits and this is particularly visible at this stage. Individual carry out activities on autopilot, in the same way as, when driving, we don’t think much about the sequence in each to use pedals and the gearing box. It became instinctive. Competence becomes natural and embedded and individuals are at the peak of their skills and confidence.

Pretty cool, right?
And the best part is that this model, intuitive and of conceptual simplicity, can be applied to all fields of life, in this way offering a complete view of where we sit in the learning process and helping us to better understand behaviours of those around us, facilitating coaching and enabling a shared journey in the learning process.

My mentor used to say that a day wasted is one where nothing new is learned. So tell me…what have you learned today?