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5,000 Hours to Incompetence.

Journal date: Wed. June 26th, 2013
Category:  Behavioral economics/ four levels of competence


Chicken Little may be writing the news. Old information presented in apocalyptic ways, that was Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” angle. Apparently we haven’t heard enough about aging, global warming, pipelines, obesity, homelessness, cancer, government corruption, tax loop holes, banking fees, and you can’t believe everything on the internet. Who knew!


With that out of the way, I did learn something recently. A skydiving instructor was discussing a recent fatality and mentioned that most sky diving accidents happen to experienced vets, to people with over 5,000 skydiving hours of experience.



That’s stuff Malcolm Gladwell tells you, not the news. However it stuck with me. I thought about my own attitude towards things, the attitude's of my clients, managers, as we get older there are things we’re very good at and there are things we take for granted. This is a real life example of the four stages of competence, remember?


First, unconscious incompetence, you don’t know you don’t know. Second, conscious incompetence, you figure out you don’t know anything. Third, conscious competence, you get good at something and you know it. Fourth, unconscious competence, you’re so good you don’t have to think about it. Next, you're in trouble, it's back to stage one. Without noticing you've gone back to unconscious incompetence. You don't even know that you don't know!


The problem with experience is that after 5,000 hours, it becomes invisible. You're about as effective as a new guy starting out. Crash. Another experienced skydiving instructor falls to a tragic death. He knew so much he didn't even know that he didn't have a clue.


We all become like a three year old with a plan.  We no longer know what we don't know. Dangerous. 


The more I learn, the more apologetic I become about the things I thought I knew. 



p.s. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the idea that mastery level performance in anything happens after 10,000 hours.


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