There is a perception in my mind, that one of my weaknesses is that I fail to see what should be glaringly obvious. Another is to be a creature of habit, carrying out some tasks/operations without giving them a second thought. Now the latter is a very natural state to fall into, given the way in which we master a successful progression through some of the tasks in life – in other words the 4 stages of cognition, which you are probably aware of:
1. Unconscious Incompetence.
2. Conscious Incompetence.
3. Conscious Competence.
4. Unconscious Competence.
However, there is a (mostly ignored) caveat in the last stage, that some argue the model should show iteration in stage 4. i.e. the need for long-standing unconscious competence to be checked periodically against new standards/requirements – in other words on-going re-evaluation.
During the latter years of my career, one of my roles was mentoring other team members in the use of techniques to build brick-outhouse-safe software. This could be argued as the stage 5 in the cognition matrix above, and is sometimes given the awful name: ‘Conscious competence of unconscious competence’. Put more descriptively , this is an ability to recognise immature cognition in others and help them to develop individual unconscious incompetence in the chosen complex tasks.
When I’m busy upstairs in front of the computer I’m using to script this, I occasionally break off, and take a leak, or go downstairs and make (yet) another cup of coffee. During these periods of mental activity I tend to use coffee pods, so each cup has to be made individually – I’ve discounted bringing a full coffee percolator upstairs – it would be a dangerous hazard given the nature of my workshop. I also don’t like coffee that has been standing with heat applied constantly to it for any length of time.
Yesterday in Wilkinsons I came across a shelf containing Thermos Flasks, and it was as if someone had taken my head in both hands and said: ‘Look at this!’
I chose a 1 litre stainless-steel model after some deliberation – reflecting that the last time I had held one of these contraptions in my hand was as a kid on a family outing. This morning I made a big jug of my favourite blend, warmed the inside of the flask with hot water, filled it with the coffee, and brought it upstairs. Since then I’ve drunk the lot. It was on the second cup that I pondered: ‘Why the Hell, did I not think of this before?’
Where was my Coffee-Drinking Mentor? As Alan Heslop (a previous business partner) used to say: ‘Nobody’s perfect – not even Joe Brown!’
First posted on http://serialfailures.connectable.org.uk on Tue, May 05, 2009 12:49:40