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Re: Reflections on Skills of the Skillful

by ELISHEVA (Prior)
on Jun 30, 2009 at 08:45 UTC ( #775947=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Reflections on Skills of the Skillful

Thank-you for a thought provoking thread that is stimulating lots of good responses.

In the late 1990's Justin Kruger and David Dunning did a series of studies demonstrating that the less skillful had a tendency to overrate their abilities and failure to recognize expertise in others. The paper where they presented these results, "Unskilled and unaware of it", makes an interesting read and won them the ig nobel prize in psychology.

They blame the reluctance of people to give negative criticism; the ambiguity of failure (bad luck? lack of effort? lack of skill?); and a certain catch-22. The less competent are also less able to identify competency in others. They can't see their mistakes or why others are better and hence can't learn from those more expert. They are likely to see the opinions of those more knowledgeable as foolish or silly, rather than insightful. Thus even exposure to experts does not correct their misunderstandings.

The challenge then is how to break out of that vicious circle. I think deliberately seeking out people who challenge you is one way. The deliberateness helps create an open minded attitude. This can be done many ways: reading the greats (several suggestions have already been given), participating actively in a community like Perl monks, working on an advanced degree, or seeking out the best people at your workplace. If you ever become that "best" in your group, watch out - and seek further. There is always someone who knows more than you or can challenge you with a different take on things. When people start seeing you as "best", they become afraid to challenge you. It is time to look elsewhere to find stimulation.

Another trick I use is to read widely enough until the material the material I read starts raising the same points over and over. Focusing on the different criteria people use to decide what is right or wrong also helps me learn.

Best of luck in your learning journey, beth

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