Competence Levels and Intrinsic Motivation

I wanted to share a bit on ideas coming from NLP (for Neuro Linguistic Progamming). These are ideas that my wife practices (so, I am somewhat irradiated by the way). There is also a relationship with creativity workshops I followed in the past. My wife is working on how to apply strategies that work, how to model behavior. Her scope is on how to teach kids about strategies that work. She's pretty good at that. So, when we model successful people, we find that they have strategies that work and if we apply them, it will work for us too (usually it boils down to working hard and smart and having a good network, but it helps having some clues on the details 😉 ). In that respect, when we learn something, there are *always* those 4 stages present:
  1. Inconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Inconscious Competence
 This is also linked to what I call the valley of dispair: When someone moves to the conscious incompetence level, a whole new field of knowledge opens and it is usually pretty frightening. The time it will take to master the field is unknown and this generates great stress. This challenges the homeostatis of the being. So, there is a tendency to step back and stay off the new field (easier to avoid pain than to work towards gaining pleasure). Add to this the external environment where people who are still at the unconscious incompetence level always try to drag that someone back to them... Furthemore, learning the new skill takes energy and is usually less effective than doing things the way they always have been done in the organization (at that moment, the individual is experiencing the dispair, doubt about the new way is experienced etc). No wonder that it's difficult to decide to learn for good despite those calls. From there, several strategies are available : 1) keep on pushing like mad ("I'll do it, I'll do it, ... whatever it takes) This usually leads the individual to burn out and shoot the messenger kind of reaction towards the person. The person cannot stand staying on a plateau level for too long and call quits. 2) jump to another topic constantly This way, the conscious competence level may sometimes be reached by luck but usually leading to a dillettante style. Knows a bit about everything, brags, talks all the time etc. No quantum leap in personal performance. 3) decide to be intrinsically motivated and walk the talk on real problems, enhancing the practice believing that the time will come without becoming a bigot of the practice. Conscious competence builds up and at one moment, the person realizes that a jump to inconscious competence happened. (Without noticing, usually opening new perspectives). As an additional tought, when knowledge increases, it's like the radius of a circle. And the unknowns increases like 2 * PI * R ... The more one knows, the more unknowns there are. But, the person becomes much more sensitive on a lot of subjects. As a sample case, look at the career of Peter Coad where he started on design [handbook], moved to more conceptual things [archetypes], worked with a vision [together], and then know works as a strategist (environment=design, beliefs=vision, transcending|identity=strategy). [He's one of my role models as is Jim Rumbaugh whose OMT is the first method I used to move away from messy arrows and boxes, and Grady Booch with the "Managing the OO project" book. Let's not forget Ivar Jacobson obviously, and Alan Weiss, a great mentor.] I guess that this is a natural path to what some call "enlightment". Maybe can we reach some kind of it through software engineering or "architecture" of systems (like 4+1, form & function as you use in some talks). One of the rules of NLP is that the mind and body do form a cybernetic system (which is also function and form). In my courses, I find myself more and more talking about beliefs and what would be the business case for UML (benefits vs costs). This makes very interesting talks. This may be a consequence of the unconscious competence mode... starting bending the rules and asking questions, pushing the boundaries, understanding the trade offs and beliefs that were in the minds of the creators. Any similar experience of yours?