Sometimes letting people trust their guts is a very good thing.  Sometimes it’s not.  Here’s one way to think about the difference.

Conscious Competence Model

Consider the conscious competence model.  People learning new things move from:

  • unconscious incompetence to
  • conscious incompetence to
  • conscious competence to
  • unconscious competence

The move from unconscious competence to conscious incompetence is the most painful transition. Ignorance is bliss. Knowing what you don't know hurts. The move from there to conscious competence happens when you know how to do something, but haven't practiced it enough to build up muscle memory. The last step is when something becomes a strength because you've built up knowledge and skills.

Conscious Competence Model applied to trusting your gut

When someone who is unconsciously competent in an area trusts their gut, they are really processing their knowledge and skills in a nanosecond and leaping to what, for them, is the obvious choice.  Trust them in their areas of strength.

People that are consciously competent in an area don’t have enough confidence to trust their guts.  They will work through the logic in a workmanlike manner and come up with a good choice.  Trust them in their areas of competence – but verify their work.

People that are consciously incompetent in an area know they shouldn’t be trusting their guts.  So you don’t have to worry about them.

People that are unconsciously incompetent are dangerous.  When they trust their guts, they are just guessing.  Don’t trust them.

How to tell

The hard part is figuring out how to tell the difference between someone who is unconsciously competent and unconsciously incompetent.  Unfortunately, I’m consciously incompetent at doing that.  When I get competent, I’ll let you know what I figured out.  Until then, anyone got any perspective?

George Bradt – PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration