When you learn something new, you move through various phases. However, completely new learning seldom happens – we usually build on existing skills to some extent.
When you want to improve something or add to your skill-set, your success depends on a critical phase in the following process.
- Unconscious Competence – you can currently do what you can do, near to the level you believe is possible for you.
- Unconscious Incompetence – You realise you can do better, but do not know how to increase your performance.
- Conscious Incompetence – You are aware exactly where you need to improve but have no strategy for doing that, so you engage in a “trial and error” process.
- Conscious Competence – You know where to improve and how to do that, while needing to practice and fine-tune the new model.
- Unconscious Competence – You have internalised the new skill, to the extent that you can just do it without much thought. You are at or near the level you now believe is possible for you.
That is what happens when all goes well in a process of self-directed learning.
However, there is a critical phase where this natural learning process can be disrupted, preventing completion.
During the ‘conscious incompetence” phase, there is a process of trial and error. Performance can actually drop at this point, due to self-consciousness and the experimental nature of the “trial and error” process.
A crisis point can come at the greatest difference between expectation and performance – when the person’s experience is most different from their perception of how it could be.
If that difference passes beyond a threshold value (too uncomfortable/painful) the person believes the goal is not achievable and stops the trial and error. They go back to square one.
The sad fact is that they may be incredibly close to success and they will never know it.
“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not
realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
– Thomas Edison
Fortunately there are several ways to prevent the crisis threshold being crossed.
Persistence in the face of adversity is one solution – a dogged determination to succeed. This involves consciously raising the ‘discomfort’ threshold. Some people will just “tough it out”.
Approaching learning with a playful attitude is a great way of reducing the self-consciousness of the trial and error phase.
Emotionally letting go of the importance of the outcome without letting go of the desire for the outcome is another way to reduce the impact of trial and error.
A comfortable environment (which includes both people and setting) is another way to encourage this phase beyond the point where crisis was an option.
My preferred solution is to short-circuit the critical phase by removing the need for the “trial and error” stage.
How do you do that?
You train the person in methods, skills, techniques and strategies so they do not need the trial and error. In short, you teach them how to achieve the higher performance and provide convincers that the new approach is a valid one in achieving what they wish to accomplish. Then accelerate learning to the “unconscious competence” phase.
This is why we train people
- through experience
- in a light-hearted way
- in a comfortable, relaxed environment
- using accelerated learning techniques.
This approach totally bypasses the strain and discomfort of conventional learning. By contrast, learning becomes rapid, comfortable, straightforward and fun.
About trial and error
Sometimes trial and error is a completely redundant process – “reinventing the wheel” so to speak. And sometimes you can end up with a better wheel as a result.
If you want to maximise the effectiveness of the trial and error process, I recommend coaching. Effective coaching is a great way of managing and accelerating the natural process of exploration and discovery.
There are better ways of learning available to you than those you are most familiar with. There are ways to train and coach for success that greatly accelerate the process and are free from the drama and crisis of conventional learning.
Think about the things you want to achieve in your life. What can you now do to achieve those quickly and easily? The choices are yours.Successful Learning by firstname.lastname@example.org