Strive for Consciousness

by Mike Foote on 5/14.12

In my Continuing Education course, Everyday Ethics, we discuss the four stages of learning, and, to illustrate these stages, we use the example of driving a car:

Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence

In this stage, someone who has never gotten behind the wheel of a car has no idea whether or not they can drive; if they've never before tried, how would they know if they can or not?  The phrase comes to mind, "They don't know what they don't know."

Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence

Once someone has tried something new, they realize what they can and cannot do with regard to this new experience; they have now moved into Stage Two, and they can begin to focus on learning those things that they know they do not know.

Stage Three: Conscious Competence

Even after you have learned to drive, you still must put some conscious effort in focusing on the road, watching for other traffic, etc.  You are a good driver, yet you are fully aware of everything you do at every instant.

Stage Four: Unconscious Competence

Have you ever gotten to or from work and then forgot how you got there?  You know you've arrived safely; you just don't remember the actual drive.  In this stage, one has performed a task so often that it becomes second nature; they are doing things without thinking about them.  This stage can be dangerous, as this is when one can become complacent; and where mistakes can be made.

It is always professed that the proper stage to operate in is Stage Three, where we are constantly aware of our surroundings, and of the steps we are taking as we go through our daily tasks.  This awareness of how we interact with our environment can be applied to everything that we do: how we drive, how we treat and speak of others, how we run our business, how we interact with our employees and our customers.

Strive for Consciousness!