Few concepts have had a bigger impact on my life than the Dunning-Kruger effect. This Nobel Prize winning psychological construct, based on a the cleverly-named paper “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” (written by David Dunning and Justin Kruger) is something I have reflected on in virtually every scenario I’ve encountered in both my professional career and my personal life.
And as I get older, the concept seems gain additional gravity, because it seems quite clear to me that virtually every failure – from the spectacular to the mundane – is in some way related to individuals (myself included) overestimating their competence based on a lack of skill and/or expertise.
Moreover, what is really interesting and poignant is the fact that skill or expertise in one domain of life does not necessarily inocculate an individual from suffering the negative ramifications of the Dunning-Kruger effect in some other domain of life.
I’m convinced that all children should be taught about this concept starting in early childhood and continuing into the secondary and post-secondary years. I suspect it would help prevent so much inanery. And while I’m not naive enough to think that all adults could be exposed – much less made to understand or accept the ramifications of – this concept, I’ll definitely do my part to try and plant the seed in as many adult brains as possible.
And I’m fairly sure that would make all of us happier, healthier, and more productive.
Here’s a fantastic video on the topic from the fine folks at TED: