Learned Incompetence

I came across an article on Yahoo the other day, called The Art of Showing Pure Incompetence at an Unwanted Task. Go read it, it is quite brilliant. The author calls his great idea, Strategic Incompetence. This is a concept worth understanding and putting into practice. Don’t be strategically incompetent at strategic incompetence!

He says: “Strategic incompetence isn’t about having a strategy that fails, but a failure that succeeds.” And: “To learn something at the office can be difficult. But to refrain from learning something requires years of practice and refinement.”

It goes like this: Anything you’d rather not do, just make a big pretence of being really bad at it. Feign puzzlement and clumsiness. Ask lots of dumb questions. For example, if you’d rather not spend half an hour photocopying stuff, just sigh loudly as you approach the machine, open it the wrong way, exclaim loudly “Oh gosh darn it, what is that red light blinking for?!” etc. Wait until some luckless good samaritan rescues you. They feel better (and superior), while you’re off the hook. Easy.

But does that explain why my IT boss pretends to know nothing about IT? Or most Irish builders make such a hames of a job that you’d nearly be tempted to do it for them? Or is it simpler than that: they really don’t know what they’re doing? Either way, it is scary. 

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1 Comment

  1. David said,

    June 29, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    OMFG I would LOVE to comment on this post, but I have a policy of not writing about any people at work. And fortunately, most of the people I work with are pretty competent. It’s funny when IT managers play dumb, especially since they don’t do it all the time. Task-avoidance is quite motivational isn’t it?


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