Building the right skills


Here are some thoughts about how to develop the right skills for a life you want to live. Last week I had an interesting discussion with a friend about different kind of skills. In case you are wandering, what exactly we mean by skills, we defined it as applied knowledge. Knowledge can be gathered by passive or active learning or simply by experiences we make.

Skill development is also a topic I currently want to focus on more. I always had the benefit of working in an area, where I develop skills, that are very broad and that I can use in different surroundings. These would include skills like communication, organizing, problem-solving, thinking new ways and coming up with all sorts of ideas… These kind of skills are meta skills and they are the best ones to achieve early on in life. Usually then, we do not know who we want to be, how exactly we want to live our life, where we want to work and what we want to work as. Most soft skills eg. are meta skills, since you have to work with people in most jobs and you have to get along with them in your personal life too. So it is great to get a broad basis of skills, that you can use in most situations. I never really thought about developing them on purpose, though, which is definitely something I want to change.

And then there are skills, that are quite fit to an area. These are more expert skills, that you need in a specific context. Eg. in software development you would want to be good at coding.

But then it is also interesting to see, how two skills, if put together, can elicit a synergy. So if they are put together, they are worth more, then each skill by itself. Eg. storytelling. That is basically a skill that helps you to communicate your expertise to other people. Thus it helps you to get your point across, facilitate learning for others and move people to decide in a certain way.

Out of this, my friend and I talked about different skill concepts, like I-shaped, T-shaped and π – shaped skill profiles.

I – shaped basically means, that you are an expert in one thing. So there is one skill, where you are the best compared to people in your surrounding, or you are even somewhere in the top 5% from all people. These are true experts.

A T – Shaped skill profile means, that the person (or it can be even a team) has a broad fundament of skills and is a true Expert in one thing.

π – shaped means, as I described above, that you have a broad fundament of skills and that you are an expert in two things. These skills usually benefit each other, if you combine them.

These skill profiles can be used to describe skill levels or meta vs. expert skills. Eg. describing the skill level for T-shape: that would mean that you have a basic knowledge of a lot of different skills, but you are only truly mastering one skill. Meta vs. Expert skills means that where some skills are beneficial in multiple areas, some are only useful in a very specific context.

So here is how I will proceed from this discussion onwards.

  • I will write down the meta skills and skills I already have.
  • I will write down the goals I want to reach personally and at work.
  • And then I will reflect on where the biggest leverages are skill wise to get where I want to be. Maybe these skills can then also be useful in different life areas. So basically I am going to ask myself: Which are the ones, that will not only help me in this particular goal or life area, but also in others? Now the important meta skills are probably the ones I will go for first, since they are useful in so many contexts.
  • The next step would be to choose a skill and to come up with a way of how I can acquire the knowledge and experience to build it.

Hopefully this finds you well and you can take away something from our little discussion.

All the best,