Friday, March 25, 2011

Conscious Incompetence

Pileated Woodpecker
At a conference I attended recently, one of the presenters introduced me to the expression "conscious incompetence." It's that psychologically painful stage when you realize just how incompetent you are at a new skill. It comes from the so-called four stages of competence.
Here's the Wikipedia explanation:

1. Unconscious Incompetence
The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.

2. Conscious Incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.

3. Conscious Competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.

4. Unconscious Competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes "second nature" and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
Looking at these, it occurs to me that not only is conscious incompetence the most uncomfortable stage, it is probably the only stage that doesn't actually make you feel good. Here's my synopsis (much pithier than Wikipedia's):
Unconscious Incompetence => Ignorance is bliss
Conscious Incompetence => OMG, I totally suck!
Conscious Competence => Dayum, I'm good!
Unconscious Competence => Gretzky on skates
I am currently at the "OMG, I totally suck!" stage when it comes to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and it is kind of driving me nuts. I know just enough to do some really cool stuff, but also enough to get into trouble.

For example, I did some subtle (I think) but good things to Brian's picture at the top of this post, using Photoshop. Here's the original picture, at right. It's a good picture: high resolution, good shot of the woodpecker, decent exposure. But the few tweaks I did (not just cropping) make it stronger, I think.

On the other hand, in trying to do those few simple things, there was still a lot of trial and error (and undoing).

And one of the larger projects I had at work this week involved Illustrator. The design itself was relatively simple, so I didn't think we would need to hire a professional designer (famous last words, eh?).

Well, I uploaded the final artwork to the production company yesterday and got a "Please call us first thing in the morning" message from them last night. Turns out that, while the design itself was fine, I hadn't integrated all the files the way the printer needs them. (Just how DOES one convert text to "outlines"?) It was easily solved by uploading a couple of extra files.

I need to be patient and keep on plugging away. I just don't like this in-between stage of "OMG, I totally suck!" I am, however, looking forward to feeling like I rock.

1 comment:

  1. I have found that every sport I try, I am really bad for the first couple weeks. Somewhere around 20-30 hours I start to "get" the mechanics and start to actually enjoy it. Actually, that isn't true ... I never got good at golf!


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