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How overconfidence halts progress

By Eric Larson

Ever been in a meeting where a new product or program is being introduced and somebody makes it clear that they “got it?” They are ready to dive in, start using this new approach or program and feel VERY confident in their abilities. 

This overconfidence without proper background and training is misguided, but extremely common.  So common, in fact, that two Cornell University psychologists developed the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a concept that puts a name to the behavior and defines its causes.

Scientifically-proven overconfidence

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This comes from a lack of self-awareness that prevents them from correctly evaluating their own skills.

In 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kruger tested participants on logic, grammar, and sense of humor, to prove their theory. They published their findings in “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”  

“We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.”

Listen and learn

Let’s circle back to “those people” in “those meetings.” It’s easy to get a demo or quick debrief and think you are ready to get started with a new program. The truth is, however, that implementing enterprise-wide programs and technology is complex and has many variables that need to be taken into account.

Process will change, for many departments. Or maybe there isn’t a documented, formalized process at all? This will need to be established. Other software and programs will need to be formatted to integrate with any new solution. Data will need to be reigned in, harnessed and organized.

What we’re getting at is that this is not a simple “click install, click go” process. It is a complete overhaul of the systems that run your accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations. Taking all of that data and building automation takes time and specialized skills. Not being prepared and fully trained on the program can slow down projects and end up making things worse. 

Trust in the process

What we’ve learned from the Dunning-Kruger effect is that it’s a mental thing. But, don’t worry, there are people who can help you with this overconfidence issue. When we help companies like yours with these types of solutions, we build your Enterprise System Design as follows: people, process, data and application functionality – in that order. People are the first step in the process. That means, they’re fully immersed in the program and trained on process. This level-set and deep dive is an essential and extremely important first step.

Confidence is great, but misguided overconfidence can be a big problem for your business. Let’s avoid that. Get in touch to learn more about Element Consulting and how we can help ensure your people aren’t holding your new systems back.