Ladder or pyramid diagrams are usually used to represent progression from lower to higher levels. They are often helpful for distinguishing between different stages, and in indicating a sequence of progression.

This example is a model which shows the key stages of developing a skill.

In the beginning, we are in a state of unconscious incompetence: we are so unaware of the skill area, we do not know that our behaviour is incompetent.

If we are made aware of this, we rise to a state of conscious incompetence. Our performance may be little better than it was before, but at least we are aware of a shortcoming, or a development need.

With practice, with the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, our performance improves to the point where we might say we have become competent – but we are conscious of what we are doing to be effective.

With more practice, much of what we have been doing is internalized and becomes second nature to the extent that we do it unconsciously.

This is the simple ladder, moving only in one direction – upwards. The downward arrows represent a warning. Every now and again it may be useful consciously to check our performance, in case bad habits have crept in or the world around has changed.