an online conversation
about design management

The 3 stages of learning

Years ago we attended one of the How Magazine's Mind Your Own Business design management seminars in New Orleans. It was an interesting experience in all sorts of ways but one of the most valuable sessions I attended was by a designer in her 30's that had come to the realisation that to market her studio well, she had to really understand herself.

So she went on a self-knowledge crusade.

It was a little new-age American for me, but the result is worth repeating.

And the knowledge, believe it or not came from her supreme yoga guru.

The gist of her message what that there are three stages of learning.

The first stage (as a graduate) is confident incompetence.

We're straight out of university and we think we know it all. We (and I use that term inclusively because it was certainly me) are supremely confident in everything we do. Unfortunately we're not too good at a lot of it – hence the incompetence.

As we mature – and generally that happens in our early 30s – we realise that we don't know as much as we thought we did  and we move to the second stage – unconfident competence. Truth be told we are actually quite good at our job but all we see are the bits that we aren't good at. Many people get disillusioned at this time and change careers thinking that they are never going to excel at their first choice of career, so best they choose another. For some people this stage can repeat over and over as they continually change careers.

The third stage of learning is confident competence. We understand that we don't know everything but that's OK. There's a confidence in our skill level and a maturity to feel comfortable to ask if we don't know the answer.

We market our studio – and our brand – on our experience and how that is of value to clients. I'm no longer intimidated to hold up my hand and ask for a brief to be explained again, in a different way.

I'm happy to act as the lowest common denominator for some clients – if they can get me to understand a difficult financial concept, I can design information in a way that can be  communicated quickly and efficiently.

So the moral from the story is by really understanding where you are in your career, and where your staff are in theirs, you can run, and market your studio better.



s stages of learning