By Clare Appleyard, founder of Katannuta Diamonds
Have you ever watched a highly skilled person excel at something and thought “That looks easy! I’m sure I can do that!”? Maybe it was somebody you saw on television, perhaps Roger Federer effortlessly hitting a winning forehand, a Masterchef contestant whipping up a delicious dish without a recipe or a skilled public speaker holding an audience enraptured.
Chances are that at some stage in your life you’ve chosen to try and emulate that same skill, only to realise that it’s not as easy as it looks. You hit the tennis ball clean over the back fence, your soufflé collapses in the oven and your opening joke falls flat on your first audience.
Welcome to the first stage of learning, Unconscious Incompetence. To progress to the fourth stage, the Roger Federer, the Zola Nene or the Vusi Thembekwayo stage, is to become Unconsciously Competent, and this will take time, dedication and commitment.
So, how do you get there? Let’s look at the 4 stages in the context of learning to drive a car:
Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
A quote from one of my favourite mentors is “You don’t know what you don’t know”. Until you attempt something new, you don’t know that you can’t do it. The masters have made it look easy. You, however, are incompetent, but you’re unconscious of the fact that you’re incompetent – because you’ve never tried to do it yourself.
At a first glance, driving a car looks easy. You spent endless hours in the car with your parents and now it’s your turn to learn. Sliding into the driver’s seat, you fire up the engine, release the clutch, press the accelerator – and the car stalls. Frustrated, you start the car again – and stall again.
Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
You’ve just become aware (conscious) that driving a car isn’t as easy as everybody has made it look – you’re completely incompetent. Why don’t Mum & Dad stall the car? How come they make it look so easy?
This is the critical stage where almost everybody quits almost everything. Realising that learning a new skill is going to take dedication and effort is often too much for people to commit to. We live in a society of instant gratification and we expect to be a master at something immediately. We don’t want to put in the time, the energy or the money to develop a skill. We expect it to be able to happen straight away. And when it doesn’t, we quit.
We quit trying to play tennis, we quit trying to be a Masterchef, we may even quit on our own business! But, if you’re willing to see things through, you progress to…
Stage 3: Conscious Competence
Driving your car is becoming a little easier. You’ve got your car started and you can make it down the road without stalling, but you might clip the pavement as you turn a corner; you lean over to turn up the radio and swerve to the left; you switch the windscreen wipers on instead of the indicator.
You’re starting to build the skillset necessary to drive, but it takes conscious concentration on your part and you can’t afford to be distracted. This is the stage of learning that takes the longest. In Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he defines the “10,000 hour rule”, where “deliberate practice” (10,000 hours worth) is required to master a skill. With enough commitment, deliberate practice and sheer persistence, you’ll eventually arrive at…
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
When you’re unconsciously competent, life is a joy. You’re in the flow and know exactly what to do and when to do it. Most of us are now unconsciously competent in driving our cars. We hop in, start up the engine, adjust the radio, tell the kids to stop fighting and reverse out of our driveway with timed perfection.
You drive to your office or meeting having no recollection of which route you took, because you did it automatically whilst talking on the phone, eating a McMuffin for breakfast and steering with your knees.
That is the final stage of learning and what we should all be striving for in our entrepreneurial endeavours.
What business skills can you look at developing to an unconsciously competent level? If you were at this level of skill, what difference would it make to your business? How much faster would you be able to complete tasks in your business? Identify the core skill that you contribute to your business and commit today to becoming unconsciously competent at that skill – and then let us know how it changes your business!
Clare Appleyard is the co-founder of Katannuta Diamonds, a bespoke jewellery manufacture company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Formed in 2007, Katannuta Diamonds has established itself as one of South Africa’s leading independent jewellers, with a strong reputation for excellent service, quality workmanship and competitive prices. Graduating from UCT with a Master’s degree in geology, Clare gained valuable diamond experience working for global giant De Beers, before expanding and developing her interest, knowledge and skills into the world of polished diamonds and gemstones. Passionate about diamonds, gems and consumer education, Clare is building a strong, proudly South African brand and is committed to helping fellow female entrepreneurs do the same.
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