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Articulate your Incompetence

A few weeks back, Andy and I got together to walk through all the different iPhone examples that we’ve been playing around with. We both learned a great deal.

I’ve found that teaching whilst learning is actually the most effective way of learning. There’s something about trying to put words to the things that you think you know that makes you reason actually how little you really know.

I think the best learning model where this experience fits in is the following model:

Unconscious Incompetence -> Conscious Incompetence -> Conscious Competence -> Unconscious Competence

The act of trying to explain something is trying to raise you from one level to the next. If, for instance, you think you know what you’re doing and then find yourself having difficulty explaining something, you’re perhaps you are at a stage of Unconscious Incompetence. However if you know you are already incompetence (Conscious Incompetence), then the act of explaining is helping your understanding, testing the boundaries of where your knowledge fails. You are trying to move from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence.

Interestingly, articulating your competence (or lack of) is an integral part to both a software craftsmanship model and pair programming, where in both you are expected to articulate your reasoning. The benefits work at all sorts of levels including the novice-novice and even the expert-novice pairing arrangement.

3 Comments

  1. This is exactly how I approach learning. I’d like to think I start at Concious Incompetence level but more often than not my ego throws me in at the Unconcious Incompetence level. The quicker I can achieve the zen-like Concious Incompetence, the faster I learn.

  2. I have done an NLP course and the Unconscious Incompetence is one of the things we studied. Very enlightening indeed.
    Thanks for the tips on retrospectives by the way.

    Lise (IM, shadowing Ange from TW)

  3. Absoluted loved the way u put it –> “There’s something about trying to put words to the things that you think you know that makes you reason actually how little you really know.”

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