Whoa… so many buttons! A tale of the uncomfortable state of conscious incompetence.

When we started Hullabalook a few months ago I was very prepared, if not excited, to be re-entering the world of conscious incompetence. For many years I had existed in a corporate situation where at least 80% of the time I found I could do my job well without really having to learn very much that was new. I love learning, being challenged and challenging myself; so being part of a startup and being forced into realms of the unknown was deeply attractive to me. As anticipated I now find that I have to attempt to learn new skills on an almost daily basis. Most of these tasks involve learning new applications that I haven’t previously had to use. As I’m learning these skills I cycle through the four stages of competence:

  • Unconsciously incompetent – I will be able to complete this task in approximately 45 minutes
  • Consciously incompetent – Whoa… this application has so many buttons. Just learning what a fraction of these buttons do will take me at least 45 mins.
  • Consciously competent – I have identified the 3 buttons needed to complete this task to the minimum possible standard
  • Unconsciously competent – I really want to download an extension pack for this application to give me more buttons. GIVE ME MORE BUTTONS!

What amazes me is the speed that I cycle through these stages and the emotions attached to them; from total arrogance that I will be able to complete the task in record time, to total despair and self-loathing, to happiness and minor accomplishments to total empowerment and desire to keep doing more.




I wonder whether we should apply some of this thinking to the process of building an intuitive user experience for Hullabalook? Could we release a version of our application that got more complex and flexible the more that the customer engages with it? Wouldn’t it be great if we could all avoid the despair of being overwhelmed with functionality by starting with only the most essential features and then gradually adding more as we became comfortable with the application? In an age of machine learning, deep learning and AI surely it must be possible to develop technology that learns with the user?

The era of conscious incompetence and conscious competence is over. Bring on the empowering feeling of unconscious competency for all!

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