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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Social Media Conversations

This post is just a quick reminder of the beauty of interesting new social media conversations and social media relationships. 

Ken Allan and I have had several interesting exchanges via our blogs and around the eLearning Learning site.  I'm not even sure what I would call Ken – it's somewhere in the peer, colleague, friend space.  I've never met Ken and I don't think we've had a real-time conversation (apologies to Ken if that's not true).  And the list of these kinds of relationships that I have is fairly long.

But it's a beautiful relationship with wonderful conversations.  As an example, during a recent email exchange, I threw in a question that I had been pondering:

Any thoughts on how deliberative practice relates to becoming something less than an expert. It seems like it should be applicable to all levels of achievement, but everything I'm reading is the study of becoming an expert. Is that just aspirational, or is deliberative practice also studied for quick attainment of proficiency?

This morning I wake up to find his post: Proficiency and Deliberative Practice.  I'm about to go post about that particular topic so I can collect my thoughts on it. 

But I had to also comment on the beauty of that kind of exchange.

And there's this interesting element that it's a public conversation.  It's part of the appeal of Twitter – you get to peer into a little snippet of public conversation.  Of course, blog conversations can go deeper.  And I'm not saying it's an either or.

I still like to use the analogy of a huge cocktail party when describing social media.  Everyone is standing around and you likely can engage them in really great conversations.  But, there are some patterns and norms at cocktail parties and in social media conversations.

  • 95%+ of vendors don't get social media conversations.  They believe that sending a press release to a blogger works.  Good luck with that.  Go ahead and send it, but don't expect results.  Think about walking around a cocktail party passing out flyers.  Well received?
  • You do need to Spend Time in social media to be able to engage in these conversations.
  • My experience with Browse My Stuff has shown me that most bloggers are quite open and willing to engage. 
  • I am quite willing to engage in social media conversations - see Conversation Topics

Okay, now onto Ken's post.  Thanks Ken!

Oh, and it goes without saying that I welcome comments, posts and other social media conversations.


Vic Uzumeri said...

It may help the characterization of the problem to look at expertise from the opposite end of the spectrum - i.e., incompetence. And yes, Virginia, there is a science that studies incompetence. The following is an excerpt from a blog article I wrote about 6 months ago:

The study of incompetence as a formal area of research seems to have been kickstarted in a paper by Dunning and Kruger in 1999. The article is viewable online at the journal’s website. They mention some earlier observations and comments, but theirs is frequently cited as the basis for the empirical research in this field. There is even a wikipedia page on the ‘Dunning-Kruger’ effect.

If you are inclined to read well-written research papers, you will doubtless want to review the paper for yourself. However, to cut to the chase, the researchers conducted 4 experiments with Cornell university students and drew the following conclusions:

* The less competent the individual, the more they tended to overestimate their own performance compared to others. Conversely, competent people tended to underestimate their performance compared to others.

* Incompetent people could not distinguish others’ good work from bad work, while competent people could tell the difference quite accurately.

* When competent people had a chance to compare their work to those of others, they revised their self-estimates upward. This suggested that their original error was primarily due to their generous assumption that others were as competent as they were.

* When incompetent people received training to make them competent, they began to make more accurate self-assessments. This suggested that the only way to make incompetent people aware of their incompetence is to teach them to be competent.

One of the authors’ most important inferences concerns the inability of incompetent people to learn through feedback. Incompetent people may be unable to learn from their own experience because their incompetence prevents them from recognizing the lessons that their own experience contains. Worse, since incompetent people have difficulty comparing good and bad work or behavior, they are less able to learn from others’ successes or failures.

While a number of subsequent studies have tended to reinforce these findings, a recent study by Burson, Larrick and Klayman (2006) suggests that the results may depend on the perceived difficulty of the task or subject. Incompetents tend to be overconfident when tasks are widely considered easy and overly pessimistic for tasks that are generally considered hard. Of course, you have to be competent to know whether a task is really easy or hard :-)

Note: If this subject really piques your interest, you can view this literature review or you may want to go to a library or online academic database (subscriber only) or track down papers like the following:

* Metcalfe, J. (1998). Cognitive optimism: Self-deception or memory based processing heuristics. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 100–110.
* Ehrlinger, J., & Dunning, D. (2003). How chronic self-views influence (and potentially mislead) estimates of performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 5–17.

Tony Karrer said...

Really interesting stuff Vic!

Vic Uzumeri said...


I shared this because, with the ongoing challenge of convincing funding sources to support training, this is one of the lines of attack that IMHO we could be developing into a more effective sales pitch. It would take some work, but the argument seems to me to be compelling.

The people who most need training (the 'incompetent') are systemically least capable of recognizing that fact.

It explains why people who desperately need to learn something don't fall over themselves to watch our brilliantly executed eLearning materials. It's a natural human trait that they don't see the need - even if everyone around them does.

I suspect that most trainers instinctively know this. But if we aren't precise in defining our understanding of incompetence, it is hard to sell the point. I can't prove that better clarity on a point like this will improve receptivity to our message - but it can't hurt.

Bottom line: It's probably not hard to convince most executives that pockets of [insert euphemism for incompetence here] persist in their organization. This research underscores the fact that those wounds are unlikely to be self-healing. It can only be overcome by proactive management.