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Conscience Competence in Decision-Making

February 11, 2015

Humans are creatures of habit. Executing a skill or making a decision without much thought – “Unconscious Competence” – is considered a sign of expertise. We often make decisions without critically thinking about the situation we are facing. However, mindlessness is actually a key driver of failure in decision making. To be more mindful, we need to avoid letting habit dictate the way we approach certain situations. By being mindful we can properly maintain our expertise and shift our skills and behaviors as necessary.


The overall goal of scenario-based simulation is not to provide participants with a recipe for effective leadership, but to demonstrate to K-12 Leaders that they need to fully understand the situation they are facing, evaluate it, identify possible responses, and choose the most appropriate solution. In other words, the focus of the simulation is to encourage judgement or "Conscious Competence".



To do this, scenarios need to be written to reflect the types of decisions that the leaders face in real life.  When participants are faced with a decision in a simulation scenario, they are with alternative options to choose from that should provide:

  • Valid alternative courses of action. This encourages leaders to consider different alternatives based on their respective tradeoffs. Choosing between valid courses of action helps to remove the blinders that many K-12 Leaders wear with regard to the habits in their buildings they have developed and the myopic viewpoints they may have on certain issues.

  • Opportunities to choose both mindful and mindless courses of action. Leaders get to experience the costs and benefits of Conscious (mindful) versus Unconscious (mindless) thinking through the discussion prompted by the simulation when doing it in groups or through feedback provided in the simulation.



Much has been written on the challenges of mindful decision-making and what I have experienced over the years is the many ways that simulations can help to build muscle memory around being Consciously Competent, irrespective of the skills being addressed.  



It brings to mind the adage of, “Give a man a fish…but Teach a man to fish…” Simulation is powerful because of how it can addresses many of the challenges to mindful decision making.



Stay Tuned  for Framing, Anchoring and Insufficient adjustment, Seeking confirming evidence, Sunk cost fallacy, Group think and Learned Helplessness.


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