Four levels of learning – Conscious competence

The personal competence model

Unconscious Incompetence – We don’t know what we don’t know
Conscious Incompetence – We know what we don’t know
Conscious Competence – We know what we know
Unconscious Competence – We don’t know what we know




How to use the Personal competence awareness model:

To communicate with and influence learners it is a prerequisite to prepare them for your ideas and for them to accept the ideas of others (in the group).

Preparing them requires you to understand how and why they react.

An ideal way of understanding an audience is to remember what it was like for you when you first started learning a subject which you subsequently found to be quite difficult.

You may have gone through the four levels of competence or learning chanels.

1 To explain these levels you need only think your own experience when you

first started learning to drive to drive. Before your first lesson, you may have been full of confidence thinking it would be easy. This first stage is described as the level of unconscious incompetence – you don’t know how bad you are yeti You are unaware of your own incompetence.

2 When you started to drive you would have then found out how difficult it 

was and you would have been aware of your own inability or incompetence. This stage is the level of conscious incompetence when you know how little you know. It is at this stage that people feel most uncomfortable.

3  After driving for some time you will have gained more confidence and you 

then became aware of how well you were doing – this is the level of conscious competence, when you are aware of your own competence.

4 Finally, you passed the test and started driving without even having to think 

of the sequence of steps needed to drive a car, you simply did it. This final stage is the level of unconscious competence where being good at something no longer requires a conscious thought process. You are now unconsciously competent. The second stage of the cycle is the one that causes us the most anguish. Human beings as a rule don’t like to know, they don’t know and this is where preparation is of vital importance.

How you prepare an audience will have a great bearing on how much you will communicate with them and how much they will allow you to influence them.

We start by acknowledging possible discomfort. We explain that what may be said may be new but that with sufficient time and explanation things will become clearer and easier. We recognise that there may be certain apprehensions, perhaps even misgivings about the subject. We point out that others, who may have felt the same thing before, benefited and are now using what we are talking about. The preparation is simply to put people at ease about themselves.

Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

Check Out Mike Morrison's Book on Organizational Development - Theory and Practice, for tools and tips on developing organizations, managers and leaders on Amazon and Kindle

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.


  1. RT@rapidbi Four levels of learning: Unconscious incompetence We don’t know what we don’t k..

  2. For academic purpose

  3. Fernando says:

    This is the foundation and bases of NLP.

    I was wondering RapidBi has any competence with NLP.



    • Hi Fernando
      To answer your question – and statement…
      Yes we have been using NLP for over 15 years, but we rarely overtly say this – clients either love or hate the idea – but all want to see results. We use it when coaching high performers and in our communications skills training.

      Certainly many of the NLP training providers use the model and it has been around for a lot longer then Bandler & Grinder and their initial ‘research’ in the early to mid 1970s.

      It appears to have been first published in 1960 “Management of training programs” By Frank Anthony De Phillips – so a little ahead of the ‘NLP’ family.

  4. Steve Hare says:

    The 4 levels of learning are often described differently particularly in relation to skills development like (say Driving or Scuba diving):

    “Unconscious incompetence” – I am not competent but I dont know and, therefore, don’t care.
    “Conscious competence” – I am only competent when I consciously think about it. e.g. “Dont talk to me when I am driving”
    “Unconscious competence” I know how to do this so well I can do it without thinking. e.g “I can drive and talk at the same time”
    “Unconscious incompetence” I used to be competent but I have neglected my continuous development and now I have become a incompetent but I dont realise it. (I am a danger to myself and to others)

    This revised listing of the four levels of learning is typically used in trainer training. I know that it works: I am a fairly new scuba diver!

    Hope this helps.


  5. RT @rapidbi: Updated: personal competence model – Conscious competence

  6. RT @rapidbi: Updated: personal competence model – Conscious competence

  7. RT @rapidbi Updated: personal competence model – Conscious competence

  8. RT @rapidbi: Blog article – Four levels of learning – Conscious competence

  9. Featured post from my site- Pls RT

  10. Featured article from my site- please RT

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  5. Kathleen Kostuck says:

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