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Conscious Stupidity

Today I realized that the flight that I messed up booking the flight I take every week. I reversed the to and the from. Cost me 500 bucks to correct.

Once I stopped beating myself up, I realized that this happens a lot when I start to become competent in something, I get overconfident too soon and make mistakes. When I didn’t know what I was doing I was very careful, but once I get good at it I get careless. Then after I screw up I know what to look out for.

A popular management guru talks about moving from ‘Unconscious Incompetence” to “Unconscious Competence”. I think I’ve discovered a missing quadrant called “Conscious Stupidity.”

Where can Conscious Stupidity trip us up at work?

Emails. We have all heard stories of email foibles. The first time you send an email to a higher up you are super-careful. Then the 3rd time you start dashing off any old thing.

Administrative work. Expenses and any other form you need to fill out. The first time I am so careful because I don’t want it to bounce back to me. Then I get cocky and start thinking I can do it without double checking. Hah!

Work Planning. Most of what we do at work seems to fall into this category. And this is where I think Conscious Stupidity and Unconscious Competence are equally dangerous. The key is that we stop looking at things with a Beginner’s Mind. A Beginner’s Mind is when you approach things as if you know nothing and need to learn. It helps us look outside of what we know, and find innovative solutions.

Where have you found yourself falling into Conscious Stupidity? Let us know!

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