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Skills, Lake Wobegon and Dunning-Kruger

I do believe in skillfulness, I do believe in mastery. I admire true craftsmen and their work results. The constant strive for perfection amazes me. So naturally I tend to be puzzled meeting people who a comfortably ignorant. Catching up with reading during the year-end holiday made me discover the reasons behind that:

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (Charles Darvin)

This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect (and/or Lage Wobegon effect). It more or less explains why ignorance is so hard to combat:
  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
(See the WIkipedia article for a complete discussion.)

So are we stuck with victims of the Peter principle? Luckily the messrs Dunning & Kruger offer a solution:
  • Incompetent individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level.
Seems like Kathy is right, right and right.

It helps to have the right mindset.

Posted by on 02 January 2008 | Comments (2) | categories: Business


  1. posted by Dan Sickles on Wednesday 02 January 2008 AD:
    I've found that the overconfident incompetent offer "I didn't know that" as an excuse, not just an explanation. When trained on a specific skill they then think "oops, I only knew 95% of everything about programming (or whatever). Now I know 100%." You're back to square one.
  2. posted by Fabian Robok on Thursday 03 January 2008 AD:
    Dan, I didn't know that.
    Emoticon tongue.gif