In 1999, social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a study titled “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” The study centered on a psychological phenomenon of illusory superiority that they identified as a form of cognitive bias, which essentially means being ignorant of one’s own ignorance. They coined it the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The American Society for Health Care Engineering’s (ASHE’s) Member Tool Task Force is focused on helping those in the field overcome this effect. The tools created by this task force are the result of very knowledgeable people addressing complex topics. Here are a few suggestions on how to reduce the impact of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in one’s own performance efforts:

  1. Engage in continuous education opportunities. Plan time to read from a variety of sources. 
  2. Participate in training opportunities that contribute to professional development even if one’s own role does not require ongoing education or other requirements.
  3. Begin each day or each project with the perspective of a learner. Be open to learning from others — even those outside of the facilities or engineering realm.
  4. Pay attention to challenges and lessons learned for valuable takeaways.
  5. Never underestimate the value of mentorship, and know that mentors can be found at all levels. Spend time with the plant supervisor who has worked at the facility for the past 20 years, and learn from team members. At the other end of the spectrum, offer to be a mentor to those new to the field. One’s own knowledge can be significantly improved when the person spends time educating others.
  6. Find experts in the field — from close to one’s own home base to the national level:
  • Engage with a local ASHE chapter.
  • Subscribe to Health Facilities Management magazine.
  • Be active on the MyASHE ( website, where one can ask questions and respond to those posted by other members. The more engaging the dialogue, the better the impact for all.