Analytical 2: Confpetence

14 July, 2016


Confidence and Competence have a similar outward appearance but there’s one sure way to tell them apart.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. And for other great shows, visit today. Competence. No, I didn't mix that up. I meant to say that. Confidence versus competence. They kind of sound similar, don't they? I guess that's why it's one of those easy alliterations. But, you know, competence kind of works. I know it's not a word. I'm just making up a I mean if you've been immersed in something for a really really long time and you spent many many many many hours learning and exploring how that thing works when you talk about it to someone you speak about it you'll naturally speak about it with a great confidence because you know you're sure you're very sure because you know you you've been immersed in it for so long so when someone asks you a question about that said thing you'll answer immediately without thinking. Click of the fingers and you have an answer. It's right on the tip of your tongue. You don't have to think because you've been immersed in it for so long. The problem is that I've witnessed is that some people develop a confidence during their lives based on, I suppose, reflections from other people. It's a form of confirmation bias, and confirmation bias is a tendency to search out, misinterpret or misremember things that other people say that confirms what you believe. If you apply that to yourself and your own opinions, then that can gradually build self-confidence. The interesting thing is that it starts in a lot of cases when you're a child, but also when people get a great deal of popularity in a short space of time, like rock stars or internet famous podcasters, maybe not. Confidence, I suppose you could split up into several characteristics. The first confidence, the first aspect of confidence is to be the speed of the response to a question. The next one might be the clarity of that response, because you can be extremely clear because you're confident. I can't use the word confidence to explain confidence. And also, I suppose if there's a third one, it would be the conviction of your response. So, those are three aspects, I think, of confidence. So, you've got speed, clarity and conviction. But the difference with competence is it has one rather important component, and that is the ability to demonstrate. Demonstratability. In other words, I can test that you are indeed competent by setting you a task that requires you to exercise that competence in that area. So, in other words, show me, prove to me, illustrate to me, demonstrate to me that you are capable of delivering on this thing in which you speak about. So, if someone is competent, then you, if you ask them to demonstrate their knowledge and apply it, it has nothing to do with the other three. So, you can be perfectly confident about any topic you might like, but if you can't demonstrate your knowledge, if you can't apply it, then I would suggest to you that you have only got confidence, that you don't have competence. So, confidence about a topic then has no direct bearing on the competence of the knowledge on the topic. It's only really suggestive. So, if you do have a lot of competence on a topic, then you may develop confidence about that topic or you may not. But they do tend to go hand in hand. They tend to, but not always. You might think I'm bagging confidence. I mean, I'm not, not really. I mean, confidence is important. It's important for individuals, for us to have the courage of our convictions. But there's a fine line. They say it's a fine line. Is it a fine line? Maybe it's not so fine. Maybe it's a really thick line. Maybe it's a very obvious line. But irrespective, I've seen people that are so confident. They're so convincing, you know, and they're so convinced, in fact, that they're right, that they're right is the right direction. I have seen groups of people confuse that for competence and then blindly follow them straight into a disaster of one form or another. Groupthink is another symptom, another thing where dissenters in a group get shouted down and everyone in the group tends to follow a herd mentality behind a leader who shows that confidence and strength. The thing that's disturbing, though, is that people that are looked up to and where this confidence is attributed as being a key strength, I worry that it only really works well if they're also competent and correct, which is not always the case. It's like if you're confident about everything that you say and what you're saying has no basis, no factual, no actual positive net value, then people will listen, people will agree, people will follow you perhaps. But where are you leading them? Is it anywhere worth going? I suppose we need to be aware of the difference and learning to tell the difference is difficult. In fact, I would say it's nearly impossible to tell the difference if all you do is you qualitatively assess. Hence why I keep talking about getting them to demonstrate. I've been on several interviews in the past where people, and this is one of those times when first impressions, you know, I've said it before on other occasions, I don't think that first impressions are the most important at all. I think the first impressions are the most misleading. and they are misleading because you can't tell the difference or it's very difficult to tell the difference between confidence and competence and that's why on some interviews that I've been on I've been asked to demonstrate technical knowledge I remember many years ago I was asked to draw a common base amplifier a transistor circuit and I drew it correctly and I looked up very nervously at them so just out of university about six months at that point and we'd only covered analog electronics about a year or two prior. Still, even a couple of years, lots of water under the bridge, memory's a little bit rusty. But I got it right, lucky me, didn't get the job though, but that was an example where they were trying to get me to demonstrate competence rather than just show them that I was confident. And I mean, I've been, had varying levels of confidence in my, in my career. And sometimes I haven't been as confident and I've lost out on opportunities and I've seen them go to other people that had the confidence, but at least in my opinion, didn't have the competence. In some cases, well, a couple that I'm thinking of, it was never actually borne out. But there was one in particular where it was. So, giving people a chance is absolutely critical to determine what part of that Venn diagram that they sit in and whether they're really worth your time. And when I say the Venn diagram, I mean on the one side, we have competence in a topic and another time and another circle overlaps it is we have the confidence. Where those two overlap is in some respects, people will say that's where you want to be. But I actually don't care about whether you're in that overlapping region or not. I only care if people... You don't have to have confidence to be useful. You just need to know what you're doing to be useful. Confidence can help. Confidence can make it a lot easier to get convinced people to follow you. But what good is that if you can't lead them in the right direction and you can't show them the right way to go? And if the advice you give people, what if you're just talking out of your a**, right? So that's no good, is it? If you're enjoying Analytical and you want to support the show, you can. like one of our backers, Chris Stone. He and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. If you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. Accept nothing, question everything. Now is always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Cicci, thanks for listening. (gentle music) [ Music ]
Duration 10 minutes and 12 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.