Uncovering "Unconscious Competence"

By William Seidman Our forthcoming book, Star Power: Discover What Your Top Performers Do Differently — and Inspire a New Level of Greatness in All will examine positive deviants and show you how valuable they are and, even more importantly, how to get the rest of your organization to perform at that high level. If you ask the star performers—the positive deviants—in an organization what makes them so great at their jobs, more likely than not, they just don’t have an answer. The subtle things they do that produce outstanding results are so natural to them that they can’t explain them. Nor do they really understand why everyone else isn’t as successful as they are. These top performers are “unconsciously competent,” and their competence combines attitude, knowledge, and skills learned and honed through experience. The things they do are so natural to them that they can’t understand why others don’t automatically do them as well as they do—and they can’t articulate what they themselves do, either. But it is possible to get the positive deviants to articulate what drives them, and then to explain their knowledge and wisdom so others can learn from them. It is not as easy as just asking them, though. The process, which we call Wisdom Discovery, requires some detective skills to dig beneath the surface and get to the unconscious competence. It starts by having a good facilitator who can get positive deviants to articulate and share how they became successful and what they do to stay that way. The facilitator must have a genuine interest and inquisitive nature in order to encourage positive deviants to share their knowledge and experience. With the right facilitator and a little detective work, any organization can begin to capture the unconscious competence within its top performers and share it with the rest of the organization.  ]]>

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