A competency trap is the false belief that the same practice that led to a past success, it will necessary lead to a future one. Even though this term was introduced in management literature, "competency trap" is wide in scope and can be applied in different fields such as business, military and in the personal.
Competency traps derive from excessive specialization, "Competency traps represent a tendency to maintain existing and familiar technologies and routines (Levinthal and March 1993)."; and this focus on standardized rules do not motivate employees to experiment new things, "once a successful practice is codified, employees have no incentive to experiment further with actions that could lead to even higher performance (Lee and Van den Steen 2007)"In addition, competency traps are associated with core competences when they become core rigidities. This happens as a result of an overcommitment to a particular core competence. For example, in the 1980s and early 1990s, GM reinforced the mistaken belief that cars are status symbols and that styling is more important than quality.
Consequently, its market share has been eroded from its Japanese competitors.
Competency trap is also called "myopia of learning", because "by simplifying experience and specializing adaptive responses, learning improves organizational performance, on average. However, the same mechanisms of learning that lead to the improvements also lead to limits to those improvements (Levinthal and March 1993)."In the military field, competency traps are dangerous as well, "An overly detailed, list-based approach could result in professional military education that is contrary to that which is actually needed." Beyond rules and specifications, personal judgment is always necessary in the field, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦we want leaders to be decisive, yet also contemplative. Such ambiguities and paradoxes are rarely captured in trait lists (Red and Bullis 20004)."In the personal field, competency trap may inhibit the...