Have you ever bought a piece of furniture from IKEA (and subsequently valued it very highly) and decided you could build it without reading the instructions? How did that turn out? If you answered in the affirmative you may be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. Aside from everybody’s favourite president, sufferers demonstrate specific behaviours such as:
- Overestimating their skill levels
- Ignoring or failing to recognize skill in others around them
- Ignoring or failing to recognize any mistakes they make
- Bragging about their abilities and how quickly they achieve excellence
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand RussellI would argue that the primary value of interviewing a potential employee is that it allows you to weed out candidates that are prone to Dunning-Kruger tendencies. This is much more difficult to do on paper as it would be hard to distinguish a boastful from a genuinely accomplished individual. Even more significantly you may find a candidate who is downplaying their abilities in an area of competence. Dunning and Kruger demonstrated that women tended to underestimate their scientific reasoning ability even when the test results indicated no gender difference in performance. These lessons can be applied to clients too: it may be more difficult and expensive to manage the expectations of a client with Dunning-Kruger than it is to keep their business, as the chances of conflict and/or unreasonable development demands increase in these cases.