It is not a matter of people thinking boastfully “I know it all - I am the expert.” It is a failure to dismiss the subconscious false comfort that comes from having used or integrated an existing product or system for an extended period. One story told to me by a Sr. stress analyst touches on the subject. I don’t know how factual the specifics are but the phenomenon fits.
A large corporation designed and manufactured a four prop military aircraft. The plane had been in service for decades and was derived from a civilian model designed and manufactured by the same corporation. It was a good design as decades in service would testify. But all good things must come to an end and the government requested a replacement. According to the analyst the corporation was sure their new design would win. After all they have been making the original aircraft for a long time. They did not win. Designing something and manufacturing something are very different. Few would argue when stated so bluntly but often the bluntness is not provided.
The original designers were long retired or dead. The “what” was documented on the drawings, but often the “why” is lost. The company was proficient at making the parts as documented. But the thousands of minor decisions that result in a final design are often lost in time. We take for granted the complicated devices we use every day. The details that went into the original design of a kitchen can opener, let alone an iPhone, would shock most people.
Another example of the blurring of capabilities which I have experienced many times was among CAD users. It is similar if not the same phenomena. First a little drafting room history is required; some of which even predates me.
Decades ago one of the entry level drafting positions was called Tracer. As the title implies, if parts were to be reused in a new assembly they would be traced onto a new velum. Here too a Jr. Drafter would have to think ahead and avoid running out of room. Even at this entry level there was an awareness of the skills needed to avoid a time consuming mistake. Yet the tracer was the Jr. guy in the room. With the advent of CAD, drawings can be reused and views re-positioned with a much lower level of skill. Think typewriter with a professional typist before the advent of MS Word on everyone’s desk. How many of us can type that fast with so few errors – all day – everyday – for years?
Now back to my point. A good portion of the drafting effort then and now are minor changes to drawings. Modifications are much easier with CAD than during the days of velum and this is a source for false confidence. I have interviewed people who really believe they have been designing in CAD for decades when in reality they have been revising and reusing existing designs.
After a few post hiring surprises we implemented a simple test during the interview. It was a real eye opener to witness “veteran” users having no clue how to start from a blank screen or set up dimension styles. We allowed plenty of time for unfamiliar workstations and for those who used Command Line/Shortcut Keys vs. Window commands. This was not just a case of resume padding – they really believed they met the skill requirements. They were told in advance there would be a CAD test. They had no doubt they had been doing design work for years and never stopped to think if there was something they should look into before the interview.