With Few Exceptions, Trump is Mired in Unconscious Incompetency

by alterego55 –

With Few Exceptions, Trump is Mired in Unconscious Incompetency: stuck on the bottom rung of the Competency Ladder.

Many years ago I worked at the 40th largest company in the world. As a manager, I received the benefit of attending seven week long management training courses in organizational development. They told us the training was equivalent to an MBA education. I have no way of verifying that claim, but I can absolutely say I gained a lot of knowledge that benefitted me greatly throughout the rest of my career.

One of the concepts they taught us was the Competency Ladder which qualitatively describes four different levels of competency ranging from totally incompetent to highly competent as a subject or skill is learned. There are a number of different names and representations for the same concept: The Four Stages of Learning, The Competency Matrix Quadrant Analysis as diagrammed above, and others. The four steps (stages, levels, etc.) on the ladder are as follows:

  1. Unconscious Incompetent (starting point)
  2. Conscious Incompetent
  3. Unconscious Competent
  4. Conscious Competent (goal)

The Competency Ladder Defined

Let’s understand the four steps of the Competency Ladder, with summary definitions from Wikipedia linking to the source data as footnoted by Wikipedia:

I. Unconscious Incompetent — this is the lowest level on the Skill Competency Ladder. The individual doesn’t know what s/he doesn’t know.

The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.

II. Conscious Incompetent — the individual is gaining knowledge of what s/he doesn’t know. The individual is beginning to learn what s/he doesn’t know.

Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

III. Unconscious Competent — the individual has been learning the subject or skill incrementally and reducing the subject/skill deficit. Sometimes their proficiency improves, and they aren’t consciously sure what specifically caused the improvement.

The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

IV. Conscious Competent — little concentration is required to utilize what has been learned — analogous to the athletes who have improved because their learning has shifted from concentration to unconscious muscle memorythrough repetition.

The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.


From the aforementioned definitions, D.J. Trump is clearly hanging by his fingernails on to step #1 on the Competency Ladder, Unconscious Incompetent. Although that might be perceived as a flippant comment to disparage Trump, it is also a true statement in full context. It was borne of numerous assessments based on Trump’s own words and ideas, as contrasted with what is required of President. The US has never seen such executive, administrative and legislative incompetence three months into the Presidency as it has with Trump. Some examples:

Trump’s executive incompetence. Two Cabinet positions are still open. Trump has been behind the curve when compared to the last six Presidential Administrations in nominating cabinet members. As of April, 13th, Trump has yet to submit 475 of the 554 nominations requiring Senate confirmation. 100 of them are in the State Department and of those, dozens are ambassadors — again, far behind the curve of any President in recent history.

Trump administration incompetence. Trump has surrounded himself with many people who have no experience in government. Therefore, they are incompetent and unable to make government operate toward their own political objectives. Muslim Ban I was a complete failure of the Trump administration due simply to incompetence — by not understanding the unconstitutional aspects of the EO. That smackdown was immediately followed by Muslim Ban II, which was also smacked down due to incompetence. Trump’s staff was given two shots at hitting that balance between order and unconstitutionality. They wiffed both times.

Trump’s legislative incompetence. Trump sent Bannon who has no political or government experience whatsoever to meet with the Freedom Caucus, trying to win over their votes for Trumpcare. Bannon went down in flames after feeble attempts to manhandle the Freedom Caucus.

“This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill”

— S. Bannon to the Freedom Caucus

The Freedom Caucus handed Bannon his a** on a plate.

Trump Doesn’t Know What He Doesn’t Know

There are countless examples across the spectrum in which Trump demonstrates he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Many of them are in his own words, with no further comments necessary. The most evident examples are what Trump thinks he knows about the military.

Trump’s claims to know a lot about the military now fall on deaf ears for most Americans, especially after comments like these:

I felt like I was in the military in a true sense. I got more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”
— DJ Trump, on being sent to military school for behavioral problems.

“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”
— DJ Trump, Ft. Dodge, IA speech.

They [US military] won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. If I say do it [commit war crimes], they’re going to do it.”
— DJ Trump, March 2016, Republican debate.

Chuck Todd on Meet the Press: “Who do you talk to for military advice right now?”
Trump:  “Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show, and all of the other shows, and you have the generals, and you have certain people that you like.”

From the above examples, I think we can safely state the following and be certain that those statements clearly describe the criteria for Unconscious Incompetent:

  1. Trump doesn’t know that he did not get more training militarily.
  2. Trump doesn’t know that the generals know far more about ISIS than he does.
  3. Trump doesn’t know that the US military will not commit war crimes at Trump’s behest.
  4. Trump doesn’t know that watching Meet the Press will not give one the necessary depth of understanding to get beyond the Unconscious Incompetent step.

One that clearly stands alone, is the comment Trump made about ISIS:

There is a way of beating ISIS so easily, so quickly and so effectively and it would be so nice … I know a way that would absolutely give us absolute victory … The problem is people will take the idea and run with it and forget where it came from…. I ran it past two or three people.”
— DJ Trump on the Simon Conway radio show, June 2016

In addition to not knowing what he doesn’t know about ISIS, Trump doesn’t want to tell us his plan because he’s afraid someone else will get the credit for it. In reality, most of us know he had no plan whatsoever, nor is he interested in developing a plan. Three months ago, Trump supposedly gave “his generals” 30 days to come up with a plan. I guess the plan that would be “so nice” was to have his generals come up with a plan that is  so nice. So far we’ve heard squat about it.


Examples demonstrating how Trump is mired in Unconscious Incompetency extend far beyond the military alone. They apply to foreign relations, the economy, immigration, healthcare and other Presidential responsibilities. Unconscious Incompetency abounds.

However, there may be hope. Trump’s drive to place the emphasis on winning as opposed to doing what’s best for America, might have him stumbling across a few gems. After all, hid did flip on the China issue — Trump recently stated that China is not a currency manipulator. Trump has now flip-flopped on NATO — NATO is very relevant and not obsolete. Trump has also reversed his impressions on healthcare, from this: You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.” to this: Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Trump now knows that after the election, Jared can help him win more effectively than Bannon can. A handful out of a hundred is a start, but Trump’s going to have to accelerate his learning curve and climb the Competency Ladder much faster if hope is going to prevail.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos