In this series of blog posts on reskilling, we explore ways to build and enhance the different innate capabilities that will be needed in 2021 and beyond. Going forward, these capabilities will be more important than the technical skills that created success in the past. Sometimes referred to as “soft” skills, they are really innate “human” skills that we all possess at birth to varying degrees. Developing more capacity in these areas enhances our emotional intelligence and mental agility, and helps us learn the rapidly-changing “hard” skills of the mechanistic world. We are all moving toward a more human-centered reality where equality, care for the environment, personal autonomy and complexity will be the norm. This coming world will require more curiosity, creativity and courage.
In the words of an executive quoted in a Deloitte article about a case study: “You can teach skills, but if someone is missing the underlying enduring human capability, then they will not get very far after the initial teaching. EHCs (enduring human capabilities) are foundational because the skills are built on them.”
The three innate capabilities of curiosity, creativity and courage are interconnected, and together shine like the North Star.
- Curiosity is when we want to learn, explore and seek answers to our questions and problems.
- Creativity is our desire to leverage what we learn to innovate and use resources differently.
- Courage then comes in to help us act despite resistance or ambiguity.
While innate, these capabilities can be built up. The question is how to go about it.
Have you ever met a two-year-old who is not curious? I haven’t. They see the world they are born into with wonder and want to know more. For some reason, with age, we stop asking “why” questions. We may also stop asking “how” questions for fear of being perceived as incompetent or unable. Very often, we stop ourselves from simply asking, what do you mean? In our mind, adults are supposed to know everything. We live in a society that favors advocacy and very little inquiry. If you want to build up your curiosity capability, I suggest you build a practice of asking questions and listening to the answers.
Bob Johansen, author of the new book Full-Spectrum Thinking, defines creativity as allowing time and space to activate the imagination and engage in play. I don’t know about you, but many of my coaching clients don’t give themselves time to reflect or even just be. Once, when teaching a graduate innovation class, I copied the IDEO design process from Stanford for an exercise. Each member of each team chose a role to play in the design process. The goal was to design a new kind of sneaker, a product everyone knew. The creative ideas just flowed, along with uproarious laughter. It was as if I had introduced them to a wildly fun game. Every team came up with an entirely different design and presented it to the class, describing its unique features. Given the opportunity, we are all creative beings. So, give yourself time to think and play!
Last but not least is courage. To act when facing resistance, uncertainty and fear requires a mixture of vision, self-confidence and practice. The human brain and nervous system are designed to move us away from threat, fear and uncertainty. Our instinct is to run away from any sign of threat. No matter how necessary, any change, especially a significant one, can be threatening and uncertain. A person with a clear and compelling vision has the motivation for continuing through fear and uncertainty.
Practice builds the courage for taking risks by beginning with small steps and challenges. Self-confidence comes with taking successful risks and managing unsuccessful ones. Research on companies that have survived and grown for over 100 years shows they have done so because they are proficient and practiced at handling change. Deloitte suggests venturing beyond your experience and comfort. Take little bites to be ready for the bigger bites!