Personal Development

The 4 Stages of Competence

Written by Jody Fransch

About a year ago, I learned of the 4 Stages of Competence from a friend and business associate. This model has really helped me  gauge and measure  myself when learning new skills.  According to the model, you move from  unconscious  incompetence to  unconscious  competence.

Here are the four stages:

competence1. Unconscious incompetence – The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it. In short, you don’t know what you don’t know.

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. This is the stage where you know what you don’t know.

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.  You know how to do it, but you have to think your way through it.

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). This is the stage where you can do it without thinking.   You just know what to do.

A good example of this is learning how to drive. When you first learn how to drive a manual stick shift, you very quickly learn that you don’t know how to do it (conscious incompetence).   As you practice you can start to think your way through it (the conscious competence stage).   As driving the stick shift becomes a habit for you, eventually you can drive without thinking, shifting gears effortlessly while you think about other things (unconscious competence.)

Another example I like is when I first learned how to type. My mom taught me from scratch and I remember practicing her method countless times. I built unconscious  competence  soon after and I could type pretty quick as a result. Today my skill to type quick really helps me a great deal and saves a lot of time.

Question: What skills have you learned where you applied the 4 stages of competence model?


About the author

Jody Fransch