Monday, August 25, 2008

How to assess our self ability

Have you ever noticed someone doing what seems a pretty easy task, and thought that's nothing - until you get to do the job? What about a potato sorter? Easy job. How do you get on when you sit there with the task of grading them A, B or C? Not easy now, is it. You've got to learn what these grading terms mean. You start off very slowly and the person sitting next to you is throwing the potatoes into the correct heaps and chatting away while you are figuring out which goes where. The other starts to berate you for being so slow! Nightmare!

At first we have no awareness that we cannot do a task. We think, if we think anything, that it is easy. We are at a stage of unconscious incompetence. We are incompetent, and what is worse, we don't know it. Can you remember before you started to drive? You thought it would be easy didn't you.

After a while we realise we do not know how to do a task. We have made progress. We have reached the stage of conscious inability. We can't do it, but now we know we can't. What's better someone who knows they can't fly the plane, or someone who doesn't know they can't and tries anyway?

The next step is to learn how to do the task. When you do this, you can do it, but only when you keep your mind on it. Get distracted and it goes to pieces. You've progressed to conscious ability. As long as you've got it in mind you can do it.

With repetition, the task becomes automatic and you reach the stage of unconscious ability. You can do it without thinking. You can sort the potatoes and talk about the game. You can drive the car and not even know you have passed through several towns.

There is a stage above this. We'll call it unconscious ability with awareness. You can do the task and think, plan and steer the activity without your thinking distracting you from doing it automatically. For example, you can be part of an important conversation, do the right things and be able to think about what is happening and where the conversation is going without being distracted from applying your communication skills, with ability but without thought.

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