This week I want to talk about the four stages of learning or the four levels of competence.

I briefly touched on this a little while ago in a book review I did for a book called “Nudge” and I said I’d do a video for you, so here it is!

What are the four stages of competence?

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

So what does each of these actually mean?

Well first you have unconscious incompetence, i.e. we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. Then you get a sense of realisation and you move onto the second stage, which is conscious incompetence. Now we’re aware of what it is that were not able to do all or what we are not good at. Then you move onto conscious competence, so you now able to do what it is that you want to do, but you have you have to focus on it. It doesn’t come very naturally. Finally you have unconscious competence and this basically means that you can do it without thinking, or spending too much brain effort on it.

So lets apply this to a more tangible, slightly more real-world example. Let’s take driving a car for instance. Before you’ve ever driven a car before, you don’t know what it is that you don’t know. You don’t know what the pedals do you don’t know how the handbrake works, you don’t understand anything. You’re unconsciously incompetent. Then you go for your first driving lesson and all of a sudden really quickly you become consciously incompetent, you suddenly realise how much it is that you are going to have to learn, as the instructor sits you down for the first time and starts to explain things. Then after loads and loads of lessons you do your driving test and you pass and you are now consciously competent. You are able to drive the car but you have to really focus on it, as you’re driving away from the test that you know you’re checking your blind spots and really paying attention you really working hard to focus on it.

After thousands and thousands of miles of driving, you’re flying down the freeway between meetings you are eating a sandwich you’ve got a telephone call on from the office on hands-free set and now your unconsciously competent. You’re completely able to drive you don’t have to think about it all is completely second nature.