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The Dunning-Kruger effect (defined by David Dunning & Justin Kruger) is a cognitive bias, where people that have a low Competence tend to have the illusion of superiority, as they do not possess the ability to assess their own ability. This means they assess their own ability as higher than it actually is. Essentially, the lack of people with low-cognitive ability, to recognise they are of low-cognitive ability - because they do not possess the cognitive ability, to assess their cognitive ability.

The less people know, the less they realise that there are things they don’t know.

The more people know, the more they realise that there are things they don’t know.

There is a saying:

“If you think you understand the problem, you clearly do not understand the problem.”

- Unknown

The diagram shows two areas. The red area denotes those that have “Invalid” confidence. That is, their confidence largely outweighs their level of knowledge and experience. People in this area are often outspoken and passionate about what they believe, largely because they think they know everything there is to know. A good example would be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose passion and commitment to what she says cannot be underestimated, but what she says is often confused or just plain wrong. For example, she thinks that the unemployment rate in the USA is low because most people have two jobs. Please bear in mind she graduated cum laude (with honour) from Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.

The green area denotes those that have “Valid” confidence, in that their confidence broadly matches their level of knowledge and experience. Notice that people in this area need to accumulate a significant level of knowledge and experience, to be able to match the level of confidence of people on Peak of Mount Stupid. This discrepancy can, of course, therefore cause massive problems that must be identified if they are to be dealt with effectively.

The one thing you need to be careful about is assuming that the Dunning-Kruger effect says how stupid people are. It is more about how people struggle to evaluate themselves accurately because if they are good at a task, they can see their mistakes clearly, and if they aren’t good at a task, they can’t see their mistakes at all. So, it is more about specific abilities than overall intelligence. {{Amber Smith}}

It should also be noted that in the original work, they noted that there was an inverse effect in the upper quadrant of those interviewed - namely, that experts who had passed the area of conscious competence and into the region you identify as the plateau of sustainability, there is often a drop in confidence as these experts tend to assess their knowledge, not against their peers, but against the knowledge they have and are aware that they don't have - often expressed as "the more I learn, the less I know" – the Cliff of Self Awareness. Thus, Dunning-Kruger also demonstrated that the more one learns, the more one becomes a master or guru - the lower they score on a self-assessment.  Thus, in fact, only those in the centre - the "professional practitioners" who are consciously competent tend to be the only members who do self-assess accurately (within the usual range of error). {{Taiss Quartapa]]


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Questions to ponder...

Do people in your Enterprise exhibit high levels of confidence, while having a low level of knowledge and/or experience?

Can you think of examples where this has happened in the past?

Who were they? What was the impact? Why do you think they acted in this way?

What needs to change to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future?

Who needs to drive that change?

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