I’ve embarked on a PhD programme this year which is throwing up all kinds of challenges and delights (so far, in equal measure). I’m in that beginning phase where as each day goes by I realise what I don’t know. There are times when it’s incredibly dispiriting because I know it is going to be a long time before I can speak with any confidence about what it is I do know.
I’ve found this little tool useful in the past in helping me position myself in relation to learning and newness. It’s generally outlined in a matrix but I prefer a circular model because there’s never a point at which learning “ends”. We’re always at some point in this circle in relation to something.
Right now I’m in the unconscious incompetence phase of learning and it’s uncomfortable beyond belief. However, I‘m in the unconscious competence phase in relation to the process of learning – I have been here before and while I can experience the uncomfortableness of it, I know it will shift and abate somewhat when the time is right.
When I’m working with clients I refer to this model to help people position themselves in relation to what they “do” know. There’s so much of what we do in organisational life that we take for granted and by taking it for granted, we often dismiss it. When a learning opportunity arrives we then feel inadequate in some way instead of seeing learning as a cyclical process. Often, taking the time to sit with what we take for granted can lessen the anxiety about “starting over” with something new.