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Recently, a friend of mine told me about the same classification regarding the process of learning any skill, but it was ordered slightly differently. It's a really concise and non-abstract way of encapsulating the learning process, which is helpful when people just don't "get" things like Zen philosophy. A few annotations might clarify:
- Unconciously Incompetent - Ignorant of your own lack of ability, unaware of any structure or limitations, and have no idea of the big picture. May perform by imitation and without understanding the rationale.
- Conciously Incompetent - Realization of structure, scope, and limitations. Have an idea as to how to things work, but perhaps an incomplete one, and are still learning how to operate effectively.
- Conciously Competent - Have "seen the elephant", understand how things work, and have enough experience to not get into trouble. However, a certain amount of deliberate concentration is required in order to perform. There is a little hesitation and uncertainty.
- Unconciously Competent - Performing no longer requires active effort, as practice has made this habitual and innate.
In a nutshell, you start out having no idea you know nothing, and end up with no idea how much you know.