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The 4 Stages of Learning Blog Feature


Stephanie Ragsdale

By: Stephanie Ragsdale on May 28th, 2018

The 4 Stages of Learning

From Tying Your Shoes to Implementing New Business Solutions

A few weeks ago, I attended the HTG IT Summit meant to help vendors better understand Total Services Providers (TSPs). There, I gained insight into the 4 stages of learning. These stages rang true for me as I’ve transitioned to my role and learned the ins and outs of the Unified Communications, IT and Low Voltage industries we serve.

I wanted to share the 4 stages, because I’m sure you’ll relate too. Whether it’s implementing a new solution like selling monthly payments through Hardware as a Service (HaaS), or onboarding a new employee – we’ve all taken part in the 4 stages of learning. It is important to recognize where your individuals are in the process of learning the new solution or responsibilities so you don’t throw in the towel too early on your new endeavors.

The 4 Stages of Learning

Unconscious Incompetence

This first stage is epitomized by the saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For example, if we look at the stages as learning to tie your shoe as a child, stage one is when you’re not even aware that shoe tying is a thing. Boom! Shoes are on your feet, they’re magically tied and life is good.

This happens frequently in the workplace. For example, someone sees an end result but isn’t conscious of the steps taken to create it. It is most common in different job roles, new employees, or new strategic relationships.

Conscious Incompetence

In the second stage, you’ve become aware of your ignorance. You realize that someone is tying the shoes on your feet, and you want to learn how to do it yourself. You’re making an effort to learn, but you’re still just learning to make the bunny ears and that the bunny goes through the hole…

Conscious Competence

“Look ma - I can tie my shoes!” you’ll shout in pride at stage three as you demonstrate your newfound abilities. You’ve learned how to do a task, but you still have to make an effort to complete it effectively. Your team knows how to sell a monthly payment, but still make an effort to remember the process and pitch the benefits.

Unconscious Competence

By the fourth stage, you’re tying your shoelaces without a second thought. It’s become second nature and you don’t have to think about the steps in the process anymore.

For example, you know the ins and outs of your new solution and it feels like a part of the normal routine. The same goes for that employee who now is comfortable and confident in their job responsibilities.

Timeline to Learning

The most interesting part was that it takes roughly 18 months for us to go from stage 1 to stage 4. That means it’s a year and half before a new employee you onboard will really be up and running in their new role. The same goes for the new hybrid business model you want to implement. How often do we think that a new hire or new solution isn’t working out, but maybe that’s because we’re impatiently pulling the plug at stage two?

Due to this longer timeline, it’s also important not to overextend or commit ourselves or our team to too many new endeavors at the same time. Examine what stage your new solutions, products, or team members are at now and consider waiting for one to move to the next stage before adding another to the mix.


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Stephanie Ragsdale

Stephanie Ragsdale is the Marketing Specialist for the Unified Communications & IT Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She provides creative marketing support and helps build brand awareness. Stephanie started her career at GreatAmerica in 2014 when she joined the tax department. Prior to joining GreatAmerica, she designed billboards locally and received her B.B.A degree in Business Marketing and her B.F.A degree in Graphic Design from the University of Iowa.

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