Churchill Fellowship Post 2: Many Thanks, Panic Buttons and Dunning Kruger

Fulfilling the promise I made in my initial blog post (link here), I’m starting to share some learning from my Churchill Travelling Fellowship. This post summarises the whirlwind since the 2018 Fellowships were formally announced on the 9th March and today, the 25th. It’s been as interesting and exciting as people promised.

img_0189Thanks… and Don’t Panic. First off, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the level of interest.  Along with telling family, friends and work colleagues I wrote the initial blog post and shared it via Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve had a few things shared quite widely around Twitter in the past, but nothing like this.

What was really astonishing were the number of people that took the time to wish me well, make suggestions and kind offers of help. Thank you all very much, I’m extremely grateful.

Where it got slightly panicky was around the statistics that LinkedIn provided, telling me who’s been looking at my post. Out of 4400 views, apparently 48 were people in the Welsh Government and 36 from Grant Thornton LLP. I don’t think I’ve ever been so conscious of something I’m doing being noticed. I’d better make sure I deliver on what I’ve said I’ll do, particularly with over 600 views from Cardiff (I need to be able to hold my head up as I walk down Cathedral Road).

A Dunning Kruger Moment. On the 20th March I headed off to Westminster for the New Fellows seminar organised by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. This was an opportunity to; learn about what it means to be a Churchill Fellow, what’s expected of me, what I’ll need to do to make my travels a success and an extremely valuable chance to meet other Fellows.

This is where I had my Dunning Kruger moment. For those not familiar with the term it is explained here, and basically means; a lack of knowledge and experience can give you a false sense of confidence. The fact you know ‘nothing’ doesn’t stop you thinking you are brilliant, and can do anything…

Anyway I had a moment of realisation that:

  • I was surrounded by brilliant people, who knew tons of stuff about their subjects,
  • Most of them seemed to have spend half their lives travelling the world, founding cool startups, social enterprises, or both.
  • What do I know about cooperatives?
  • Am I competent to be let out on my own in a foreign country?
  • Arrrgghhhh… I’m doomed.

I suppose the joy of knowing about the Dunning Kruger effect is, once you realise you are sitting on top of Mount Stupid, you can do something about it. I’m just hoping that my Valley of Despair isn’t too deep and wide (see graphic below).

Source: unknown, there are many versions of this on the web

Coincidentally I ended up having a conversation about competency with co- founder of The Do Lectures, Andy Middleton later in the week. We focused on behaviour change in public services and the idea of Minimum Viable Competency to do a variety of jobs. It did get me thinking about the idea of a Minimum Viable Competency (MVC) to successfully operate a cooperative. Would it be the same MVC for all cooperatives, large or small? Would MVC vary depending on sector? One to think about for my travels (and the subject of a podcast I recorded with Andy – I’ll put the link here once it’s edited).

Practical Stuff, and Getting Out of The Valley of Despair.  The good news is that the seminar on the 20th did give me some really useful practical advice on what I need to to do if I’m to make the Fellowship a success. Here goes on my 5 takeaways:

  1. Don’t over do on the scheduling. I need to leave space while I’m travelling to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and make sense of it.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Have a clear idea of who I want to influence when I get back, and what will work with them.
  3. Work as I go along. Don’t leave the analysis and write up until the end. Do as much as I can while I’m travelling (see number 1).
  4. Be flexible and respond to opportunities. Apparently things will emerge, and I will need to be flexible to identify and use these opportunities.
  5. Enjoy myself. This isn’t the day job, and I’m more likely to learn if I’m enjoying myself.

On reflection, that feels like a list I could apply to pretty much anything, hopefully including the detailed itinerary planning which is next on my list.

So, What’s the PONT?

  1. People have been extremely generous in their congratulations and suggestions of help, thank you very much everyone.
  2. Approaching the unknown is scary, but at least I now know about the Dunning Kruger effect, and I’m trying to work out what will be my Minimum Viable Competency.
  3. Practical advice (particularly that given by previous fellows) is invaluable, I’m going to make the most of it.

Finally, if you like a singsong, here’s an explanation of the Dunning Kruger Effect set to music, the Dunning Kruger Song from the Incompetence Opera (I kid you not). Nessun Dorma will never be the same again.



About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s