Learning new skills: Think 'Driver's Ed'

Red coffee cup

Recently, we were asked when and where the best place to complete our online learning was, to which we replied “wherever and whenever you can - it’s designed to be on completed on the go and to fit in with your life”. We recommend this simply because of the realities of modern life, but is there an ideal environment to ‘learn on the go’?

We think there is.

“I can do that blindfolded”

Have you ever hear of the term: unconscious competence?

This is where someone has had so much practice at a skill that the behaviour or task becomes ‘second nature’; meaning that it can be performed while doing other things, or be able to be taught easily by that person.

When someone's learning a new skill they’ll sit in one of two groups:

Unconscious Incompetence: these people are the ones who say “that looks easy, anyone could do that”. They don't know they're bad at something (a.k.a think they're good at everything).

Conscious Incompetence: These people say “that’s harder than it looks, I need more practice”. They understand when they're not good at a particular skill.


To get to the place of unconscious competence, practice time is essential. Take learning to drive a car, for example.

At first the idea of steering, accelerating, braking, indicating, obeying the road-rules, checking mirrors and everything else that’s associated with driving is daunting enough, add in the challenge of driving a stick, and learning to drive becomes a highly stressful and inefficient experience.

However, once a certain level of practice is complete, piloting a vehicle becomes a little easier and more automatic; the once nervous learner can drive more confidently and may even dare to switch the stereo on in their car.

man multitasking at desk

It’s around this point the learner becomes consciously competent, where the skills are there but they still require large amounts of cognitive energy. But, given that there is sufficient research to suggest that multitasking reduces efficiency (yes, both men and women!) and that multitasking can even reduce IQ, the key to creating optimal cognitive focus comes from reducing stress, information overload, and complex distractions.

Imagine how much faster it would be if learning to drive a car meant that you didn’t have to be on a road, or have other motorists around, or even have to use that blasted gearbox.

So given that driving a car is an example of learning a new skill, and given that we know multitasking is not an efficient use of cognitive power, we return to the question, what’s the best environment to learn on the go?

We think there is.

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