What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Dunning Kruger effect Image

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon by which people with little knowledge tend to overestimate their abilities, precisely because they ignore how much knowledge is necessary to master them.

 

As soon as you gain more knowledge about any discipline, you begin to realize how deep and complex it can be.

  • This makes you doubt more about your understanding of it.

Knowledge and Confidence

Dunning Kruger effect Template

The Dunning-Kruger effect uses 2 variables:

 

Confidence: How much people trust their knowledge or abilities.

  • How confident they feel about a certain Topic.

 

Knowledge: How much knowledge they actually have.

  • Speaking objectively.

 

This effect can be also understood as a self-perception phenomenon.

  • The deeper you go, the more you know yourself and your capabilities.

 

Let’s look at the first example that will surely sound familiar to you:

Dunning-Kruger Effect example

 

Think about your last Christmas dinner (or Thanksgiving, Easter… Any family celebration).

 

We are sure you have a family member who is a perfect fit for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  • Someone who speaks as an expert on … Well … everything.
    • But he/ she is not precisely a very cultured person.

 

If you can’t think about anybody, maybe it’s your brother or sister in law (just joking).

 

On the other hand, surely you have another very intelligent and wise relative who is always silent.

Now comes the question:

  • Why is this effect important?

 

Why should you worry about it in your Business or in your day to day?

Why is Dunning-Kruger effect important?

It is important to recognize the Dunning-Kruger effect because, when this phenomenon occurs with important issues, the consequences can be devastating.

  • Medical issues.
  • Business decisions.
  • Financial advice.
  • etc.

 

You should always check how much someone really knows about what they are talking about.

  • Specially, if it is an important topic.

 

Discussing politics is not the same as receiving investment advice.

  • Authority is vital.

The best and simplest way to prevent the Dunning-Kruger effect is, before taking someone’s advice, to check their authority on the subject.

  • As simple as that.

 

But… What if there is a professional relationship involved?

Dunning-Kruger effect examples

Next, we will discuss different professional scenarios where the Dunning-Kruger effect appears.

  • In addition, we’ll give you advice on how you should handle these situations.

 

Let’s begin:

The Dumb employee - Dunning-Kruger example

 

Imagine you have an employee who thinks he is the smartest person in the world.

  • Not unusual.

 

He does his job pretty well but, sometimes, he questions things he doesn’t know, very vehemently.

  • And start to feel tired of this situation.

 

What should you do?

 

Since he is your employee, you can directly ask him:

  • What do you know about this Topic?
  • Where did you get that information from?
  • What studies or professional experience do you have?

 

This will act as a mirror and surely, he will realize that he only has unfounded opinions.

Ignorant Coworker - Dunning-Kruger example

 

In this situation, you have a co-worker that knows nothing about what you are doing.

  • However, she is always giving you lessons on how to do your job.

 

Both of you work together often so, you have to maintain a good relationship.

 

How should you handle this situation?

 

You could tell her that you prefer doing your way.

Tell her that you never question how she performs her tasks and that she must therefore respect how you do yours as well.

 

Questioning her authority or knowledge can also be helpful, but among co-workers it can sometimes be seen as a “personal attack.”

 

If she keeps lecturing you, you should definitely ask her for her knowledge on the subject.

  • As we saw in the previous example.

 

If you ask for respect and don’t get it, you no longer have to be considerate.

  • Otherwise, you could be considered as a weak person.

The Boss without knowledge - Dunning-Kruger example

 

Now comes the most difficult situation to handle:

  • You have a Boss that knows nothing about certain technical aspects.
    • As a manager, he doesn’t have to.

 

The problem is: He thinks he knows as much as the team he leads… And he doesn’t.

  • This is very common: You can be a good manager, but a mediocre technician.

 

What should you do?

 

You could ask him for help with other things he does well.

  • In other words: Keep him busy so he forgets to meddle with your tasks.

 

Some Bosses (men and women) like to feel needed.

  • Your mission here is to fulfill this need with a constructive task.

Summarizing

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon by which people with little knowledge tend to overestimate their abilities.

 

It uses 2 variables:

  • Confidence: How much people trust their knowledge or abilities.
  • Knowledge: How much knowledge they actually have.

 

When this phenomenon occurs with important issues, the consequences can be devastating.

  • You should always check how much someone really knows about what they are talking about.

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