Mercury Hampton

Ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? No? Don’t worry; prior to writing this neither had I. Ironically, the chances are that the person suffering from it doesn’t know about it either. Intriguing isn’t it?…

So, what is it, how does it apply to business, and is it contagious?

Social psychologists David Dunning and Justin (not Freddy) Kruger identified a form of cognitive bias in a revolutionary 1999 study. The individual who formed the basis of the initial study was a criminal by the name of McArthur Wheeler, and if you read no further than the next sentence, I will have at least given you a laugh to brighten up your day. Wheeler robbed banks with his face covered with lemon juice. He did this because he believed that lemon juice acts in much the same way as invisible ink and would render his face invisible to surveillance cameras. I’m not making this up, I promise.

But, what does all this have to do with business and not knowing about having the condition? The name of Dunning and Kruger’s study should give you a clue.

“Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”

That’s right. The Dunning-Kruger effect is where people assess their own cognitive skill to be greater than it actually is. In other words, they think they’re cleverer than they really are, and they don’t possess the ability to see their own shortcomings. I’m pretty sure that everyone has met, knows, or has worked with someone with this syndrome. The Know-It-All, the smart arse, the arrogant person that refuses to accept that what they are doing or saying is wrong regardless of concrete evidence that proves otherwise. They are all unwitting victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In terms of what this means in a business sense, could your potential recruitment candidate be something of a red herring? They might be full of bravado and gusto in the interview and come across as being hugely impressive, but once they start work, they turn out to be as effective as a chocolate teapot. Could it be that the person that gets whispered about in the brew room or around the printer really is as useless as everyone is making out? Is the person in charge of your key stakeholder management causing more damage than good?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should immediately sit your staff or potential candidate down in a room, shine a light in their face and interrogate them to find out if they are incompetent. No, in fact I’m illustrating that knowing about this syndrome represents a golden opportunity for you to improve your productivity, your team spirit and your overall revenue. Before you decide on the future of a person that may have these traits, consider this; is their inflated sense of self something that could be a hinderance or an advantage to you and your company?

Dunning-Kruger did not conclude that these types of people are unemployable or write-offs – far from it. A follow up study showed that they are highly receptive to outside influences and improved self-assessment skills can be learned with training. Big, bold characters are often the most successful because they project this unwavering aura of self-confidence. People buy into that confidence and a lot of money can be made as a result. It’s up to you to decide, but before you do, consider this; is this person worth taking a punt on, or will they leave you not with egg on your face, but lemon juice?

One sure-fire way of avoiding any these potential headaches and pitfalls is comprehensive psychometric testing and profiling, both from a recruitment and a candidate point-of-view. We at Mercury Hampton offer exactly this in the form of IQ, a revolutionary way of profiling and pre-screening candidates to ensure the highest possible match for the position being offered. IQ is a fully interactive online recruitment tool that gives you extensive information on all your potential candidates. This includes, amongst others, their CV, a list of core competencies, a video introduction and an extensive McQuaig psychometric profile – everything you need to ensure that your candidate is the perfect fit for you. This process is so successful that we have a 96% retention rate after 12-months, and a 93% retention rate after 24-months. In fact, we’re so confident in these stats and that IQ will work for you, that we offer up to 12-months employment protection – GUARANTEED.  To take advantage of this revolutionary recruitment process, get in touch with us at or on 01925 937 311 NOW!

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