By Jorge Manuel Zelaya Fajardo
“Ignorance breeds confidence more often that knowledge.”
-- Charles Darwin
I must confess that the first time I heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect I felt a bit uncomfortable. An awkwardness stemming from a potential uncovered truth. My first thought was: Am I suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect without knowing it? Therefore I proceeded to do what I usually do whenever I have a doubt ... I immerse myself in the insatiable and tireless search for knowledge in any possible reliable source. After doing so, a simultaneous calm and unease came to me. The calm was due to the fact that when I read carefully what the effect consisted of, I realized that practically all human beings have it , to a lesser or greater degree. The concern came from finding out what I should do about it now.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a bias whereby human beings, with little skill or knowledge in some subject, suffer from an illusory superiority considering themselves more skillful, capable or intelligent than other people with confirmed greater preparation than themselves. However, perhaps the most serious problem is that the person himself has a manifest inability not to recognize his own incompetence. David Dunning (Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and professor at Cornell) and Justin Kruger (Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell University and professor at New York University) formally presented the study results in 1999 with a publication in the renowned Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The truth is that it was not until a couple of years later, that due to the testimony of two professional sports’ legends that I managed to find the answer, at least partially. Bob Bowman, swimming coach of Olympic champion Michael Phelps and the recently deceased Kobe Bryant, one of the best players in the history of world basketball. Both sports legends could, through a single sentence each and independently, very positively influence my understanding of the Dunning-Kruger effect within the infinite imperfection of my intellect. Bob Bowman redefines the concept of champion as: “Not only the person who beats others in competition by taking the medals, but the one who, even better, beats himself. “ A simply powerful phrase. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant made it clear very well when in an interview with the Wall Street Journal newspaper, already retired from basketball and beginning his career in business, he said: “I don't know if I'm good at business, but I'm going to find out for myself." A extraordinary mix of determination and courage.
Honest, direct, genuine and timely feedback is impressively effective. It may not be so pleasant to our ears that our affective shield will rush to protect us; however, the goal should be to listen carefully to it.
Due to my Reticular Activating System in the brain, just learning what the Dunning-Kruger effect is, made me notice it in political leaders, business leaders, athletes and public figures. Now I see more often people who have manifestations of deep illusory superiority who really think they are more competent than they really are, belittling professionals with much better preparation and more experience.
Finally, I think that seeing the results and receiving adequate feedback on our actual performance would be halfway there, if we did not seek ACTION. Personally, I think this action is called KAIZEN (continuous improvement in Japanese). Disciplining ourselves to improve, correct, or redirect after seeing results dooms us to reduce the Dunning-Kruger effect.