The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a phenomenon in cognitive science asserting that incompetence prevents the incompetent from realizing their incompetence while simultaneously causing them to rate their own competence as greater than that of the truly competent.
It is clearly indicated in many work environments, case in point at large technology companies, where management paths for designers are non-existent, leaving a gaping hole where true design leaders should be. Microsoft, for example, hires many talented designers but then, due to lack of designers at higher management levels, places them under managers with at worst, no appreciation for good design or experience as a working designer and at best, no practical design experience coupled with a sincere appreciation for good design but a naïve, uninformed idea of what designers actually do and, more importantly, how they do it.
Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
1. Tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2. Fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3. Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
4. Do recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill. – Wikipedia
This video by Stefan Sagmeister is a perfect case in point. Take this quote from the video and substitute “design” or “designer” for “stories” and “storytellers”.
People who actually tell stories, meaning people who write novels and make feature films don’t see themselves as storytellers. It’s all the people who are not storytellers, who kind of for strange reasons because it’s in the air suddenly now want to be storytellers. – Stefan Sagmeister
Just because you love good design doesn’t mean you can design a chair like the Eames or a visual hierarchy like Brockmann or a typeface like Carter or a product like Apple. Just because you love good design does not mean you can lead and inspire a team of designers. Design leadership is inspired by shared talents and skill sets and a history of getting your ass kicked in rigorous critique by professors whom you love/hate at that moment but respect them all the same because you know they had their asses kicked and their work ripped to shreds once upon a time, too. Design leadership is inspired by designing a comp with the same tools. Design leaders are made by creating beautiful forms by the same rules.
There is this fallacy out there. I don’t think I fell for it, but somehow maybe unconsciously I did, you know I’ve seen a number of films so I must be able to do one. Of course this is the most stupidest thought ever. It’s like, Oh, I watched the philharmonic. That’s why I’m a virtuoso violin player. You know, well, I’m not, even though I’ve watched a lot of philharmonic concerts.– Stefan Sagmeister