Archive for the ‘Chapter 1: Knowledge Based Work’ Category


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Because we work in a more complex environment where our work is more exploratory in nature,  it doesn’t mean that craftsmen don’t have anything to teach us. Allan Cooper, author of “Running with the Inmates” and inventor of Visual Basic, said the following about craftsmanship:

Craftsmanship is all about quality – it’s all about getting it right, not to get it fast. It’s measured by quality, not speed. It’s a pure measurement, and a delightful one.”

Craftsmen do it over and over again until they get it right. In their training, they build things over and over so they get the experience they need to get it right.[1]

This demonstrates the concept of personal competence but this also has a disadvantage.  I’d like to explain by quoting one of my favourite blogger – Joel Spolsky – and how he answered the question of what his view on craftsmanship was.  “Craftsmanship is, of course, incredibly expensive. The only way you can afford it is when you are developing software for a mass audience. Sorry, but internal HR applications developed at insurance companies are never going to reach this level of craftsmanship because there simply aren’t enough users to spread the extra cost out”

My conclusion, therefore, of craftsmanship is this:  it is the pride that a craftsman takes in his profession and tools. Because he performs based on his personal competence, he prioritizes the mastery of his tools, upgrading them and improving his work methods in an evolutionary way. Craftsmen take pride in personal improvement and appreciate quality because they know how valuable work becomes when done the right way. They know that quick-fixes will rarely be successful in the long run, you still have to fix it later and that translates to even more work.


The Competence Learning Model

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Competence consists of two components – knowledge and ability. This model describes the development of skills – the theory of competence staircase.

The Competence Learning Model

Level 1: Unconscious Incompetence Level 1 – the person is not aware of the existence of the skill.  He might have a naïve opinion about the skill or is not aware that it exists. Transition from Level 1 to Level 2 To get from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence the person has an idea of the skill and has to be inspired. You can’t dream of something you haven’t heard of.

Level 2: Conscious Incompetence When the person becomes aware of the existence and relevance of the skill, he reaches conscious incompetence. When people know they are incompetent, the start to wonder if it is something they want to be competent in or not. If people think the skill is not relevant, all efforts will be in vain.  Before continuing, they need to be motivated about learning the skill.

Transition from Level 2 to Level 3 To be competent, a person needs information and practice. The person has to learn and practice the new skill and explore the new skill. Developing a skill means using it in new situations and leaving one’s comfort zone, creating a sense of risk and anxiety, giving the feeling that there is a loss of control over the outcome. If you a never are willing to fail you will never leave you comfort zone, and therefor never evolve.

Level 3: Conscious Competence Once a skill is learned, concentration in performing the skill is the next phase. People rely on theories they remember – fragments of a text in a book or a similar situation. They should be able to demonstrate the skill to others, but they are unlikely to teach the skill effectively.

Transition from Level 3 to Level 4: This transition involves continuous practice of the new skill. It involves leaving one’s comfort zone frequently.  Demonstrate how this skill helps you and what can be done to improve the result, Ask, have I learned other skills that I think will generate benefits when I master them?

Level 4: Unconscious Competence Practice makes perfect as the saying goes.  Constant practice of a skill eventually puts it skill in  the unconscious part of the brain, becoming second nature. A common example is driving.  You hop into your car, turn on the ignition and go without thinking twice.  It’s a skill you practice every day, or several times a day. How would a professional rally driver perform if he had to think about his next maneuver and the speed he has to reach to get to the finish line?

Beyond Level 4:  Reflective Conscious Competence This model has been establish for many years, but also criticized for some of its flaws. I’m prepared to support the argument that there is a fifth level – reflective conscious competence. I am in favor of this fifth level because I think the best teachers are those who can demonstrate skills and also teach these skills effectively to others. It’s in fact one of the most important reasons why I wrote this book, as it allows me to reflect on my profession. Over the years I have had mentors who helped me reflect on aspects of my life and work.  An important task is for you to help others reflect on their work.  Sit down with your team regularly and review their work.

Summary of the Competence Learning Model An excellent lesson that I learned from the competence learning model is to rally people to your side (customers, stakeholders, team members, wives). First, you inspire them to get them up to the conscious incompetent level. Teachers and trainers commonly assume trainees to be at level 2, and focus their efforts toward achieving level 3. You can’t dream of anything you can’t imagine, and you can’t imagine something you don’t know anything about. People grow from training only when they are aware of their own need for it and know what  personal benefits they derive from achieving it.

See the invisible

Value of Knowledge

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The development of the Internet has changed the value of Know-What because when information is nearly free, the value of knowing it decreases. For example, hypochondriacs can now do a self-diagnosis after reading about their symptoms from medical forums on the Internet. Or look at the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was outmanoeuvred by Wikipedia in a matter of mere months. Decades of total market dominance had swung the other way against them.
When information is nearly free, what now becomes more valuable is Know-How. If you look at efficiency in knowledge-based work, there is easily a 10 difference factor on productivity between people. And that’s not because people work 10 times as hard, it’s because they work 10 times smarter. That comes from Know-How and knowing the right persons.
When you master one technology, technologies related to it are also easily mastered because you understand the foundation and principles upon which that technology depends upon. If you know much about a specific domain, you can easily be more efficient. In the knowledge-based economy, people like to collaborate with people who share common interests and values. People get together in small communities and forums and discuss what interests them. If someone joins but does not contribute to the sub-cultures’ common interests, they don’t have any status. Status in the knowledge-based economy comes from your contributions.

Know-How is Valuable in the Knowledge Economy
The power and ability to influence in the knowledge-based economy first comes from how you know and how much attention you put on value. The person with the most influence on communities and sub-cultures are those who contribute regularly. The ones that contribute to a network are valued and respected; the ones who only consume other people’s contributions are seen as leeches. That decreases the value of the network.
In forums, people who contribute too many answers to problems are considered gurus and people who only ask questions are considered newbies or freeloaders. If a network or community is too general and there are too many freeloaders, the circle of contributors to the network becomes narrower and closed. The more contributors there are and the more friends you have, the higher up in the hierarchy you get.
If you’re not gaining knowledge and experience, you’re losing competence. You either grow or shrink. To develop a team, a culture that calls for both personal and team development is necessary. To develop more knowledge, you also need to develop the right attitude towards knowledge and teamwork.
Development is mentally difficult because that’s what we need to reconsider ourselves. Many of us have learned through years of socialization and school systems that being right is good. If you are right, you are rewarded, and if you are wrong, you are punished.
As a result, many people become obsessed with being “right”. But what does this lead to? It convinces us that one way is more “right” than others and that which is different is wrong. To develop, you have to realize that the way things were done before was not necessarily optimal for its outcome, and therefore you were wrong. If prestige was involved in the “right” way, it is difficult to re-evaluate the situation and develop. So the feeling of being right can be dangerous because it doesn’t help us develop.