Being a Better Action Taker
I am always curious to read someone else’s take on competencies. Curious and, if the truth be told, a little nervous about whether or not my view is consistent with that of “experts”. The fact that I do not view myself as a “guru” in this field is part imposter syndrome, but also anchored in my opinion that human behaviour is a great equalizer. And the competencies I identify in “The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human” are really just innate behaviours, awaiting their frequent and impromptu curtain calls throughout our daily existence; called upon spontaneously when we find ourselves needing to learn about something new, communicate a complicated set of instructions, overcome a setback, be productive when working with people we don’t particularly like, and so on (the curiosity, communication, character and collaboration competencies if you’re keeping track…). One can claim to be an expert about the topic of competencies, or “future skills”, but can any of us truly be an expert in doing them?
Ian Leslie, for instance, literally wrote the book on curiosity. One of my favorites, and invaluable in my writing about curiosity as “the gateway” drug to competency based learning and living. The book’s called “Curious” by the way, and well worth a read this spring/summer as it should, at the very least, make you aware of the three levels of curiosity you possess, and how to leverage them all. (Leslie, 2015) But is Leslie any more curious than the rest of us? He is about the subject of curiosity, but does that make him “curious-er” in general? At the time of writing this post I am trying out a new Linkedin headline – “Curiositist”. What I’m trying to say is that I love being curious…I suppose one might interpret it as a claim to have anointed myself with some sort of accreditation in curiosity, which was not the intent. But I digress. Curious people tend to do that.
Let me try to circle back to my the initial intention of this post – other people’s views on my field of passion (not expertise) – competency based learning. Forbes magazine actually does a pretty good job keeping current with competencies, even though it rarely if ever calls them competencies. The word might forever be doomed due to its ambiguity, which you’ll soon see is ironic, given one of the assets listed by an expert in this field. Nope, Forbes, like any other source in the mainstream still likes to call them “skills”. I was searching through the magazine’s archives recently, looking for an article on “future skills” someone had posted on Linkedin. I did not find the desired article, but instead found one much more current, written by Tracy Brower, a PhD sociologist, who has just published the book, “The Secrets to Happiness at Work”. I’ll dive into the book another time, but this blogpost is about her article in Forbes, “The Future of Work will Demand these 8 New Skills”. There’s that “s” word again.
I literally felt my heart accelerate when I read the title, instantly noting the exact numerical reference between Tracy’s article and what I call the 8 pillar competencies in my book. “Could it be a Forbes columnist sees the world the exact same way as me?” I thought, finding myself engaged in a mental tug-of-war between whether I should take this as confirmation of my hypothesis, or protective over someone else encroaching on my turf. Either way, I dove in with childlike excitement.
I’m not going to fully spoil your chance to read the article yourself (full attribution at the end) but I do want to demonstrate how Tracy and I see eye to eye on our inventory of competencies, or skills…. The following paragraphs highlight Ms. Brower’s “8 New Skills” and my attempt to cross-reference them with my “8 Pillar Competencies”. Ready? This is going to be fun…
Ambiguity – first, I L-O-V-E that Tracy believes this to be an asset in our ability to cope with, and actually enjoy, work in the post-pandemic workplace (the article was published in February of this year, and really has its hand on humanity’s pulse). Historically “ambiguity” has had a bad rap. It’s not something we necessarily aim for – just the opposite in fact. But Tracy looks at our ability to be comfortable in a world which is likely to be very ambiguous in the near, medium and possibly long term, as an advantage. I agree. Honestly, I ran this one through my master list and did not find a match. Chock one up for the good doctor.
Curiosity – This is a perfect match of course, as referenced earlier in this post. She calls it a “craving to learn”. I couldn’t agree more. Curiosity is my personal favorite competency. This is a draw.
Openness – Upon reading Tracy’s take on this, I feel comfortable in placing it alongside the pillar competency of critical thinking. I might even say I like the sound of it better. Critical thinking is a bit stuffy after all. In my book, I attempt to brand it as the “open-minded always” competency, so I think we’re on the same page here.
Entrepreneurship and Empathy – I know, I too thought, “wait a minute – that’s two!” I’ll let you judge for yourself if they should have been separated, but to me, in combination, these two synthesize into what I call creativity. Empathy, after all, is cited by scholars and innovators alike as the first phase of design thinking, and I believe you need to be a design thinker to be an entrepreneur. So, again we have achieved commonality. Yay!
Resilience – Here, Tracy bundles a variety of behaviours into one package. Her take on resilience involves adaptability, bounce-back capability, innovation and problem solving. Kudos! I have a more narrow view of the word, but I pair it with ethics, and wrap it up into the character pillar competency. This one might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to call us aligned here too.
Optimism and Imagination – Uh-oh, here we go again. Counting two things as one? But again who am I to argue. I’m writing a blog immersed in the vastness of Blog Ocean. Tracy is a Forbes Columnist and a PhD! If that sounds sarcastic, it is not a jab at her. She has put in the hard work and has earned respect for her scholarly distinction. Tracy does a good job explaining how imagination is the secret to optimism…and goodness knows we will all need to conjure up more of that in every aspect of our life. Advantage – Brower.
Rapport and Relationships – OK, now she’s gone too far! This is an outrage! All kidding aside, I totally see how she pairs these two together, and I am also willing to bet that Tracy and I are talking about the same skill (dammit, competency!) when I highlight “collaboration”.
Action – Tracy quotes someone else here, and I want to use it as well. “The future will not belong to the cynics who sit on the sidelines.” Her “action” skill is super important, and honestly I found myself thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?” When suddenly it hit me. I DID. A LOT. I use the word at least 366 times in my book. Every page, or episode as I call them, features an action you can perform to practice a competency. So I’m not sure how to score this one. Tracy treats action as a skill for the future, whereas I attempt to ritualize it as part of my framework. Perhaps we need a jump-ball.
If you’ve been keeping score (which is a bad choice of words because my intention here is to demonstrate how two like-minded people with a passion for learning, view a subject area in similar but slightly different ways) Tracy Brower has identified two “skills” outside of my list. On the other hand, my 8 pillars feature at least two, and maybe three not on hers. Citizenship and communication for sure, and problem-solving a possible distinction, although she does mention it in her article.
I hope it comes through in my breakdown of the Forbes article, that there is no wrong nor right in this conversation. There is only conversation. Important, vital, future-saving conversation. And then there is, as both Tracy and I implore, action to be taken.
Whether you read her book or mine, her column or this blogpost, whatever walk of life you traveled to be here right now, my guess is, if you read this far, you are among a tribe who seeks better. But not of a world that will revolve around you, rather one that you choose to help shape in what you hope it to be. Being better is a kaleidoscope of skillsets, competencies, behaviours, mindsets, attitudes and, of course, action. Earlier this week, I recognized International Nurses Day, with a quote from Florence Nightingale. "I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results." Let’s hear it for action. Better yet, let’s act.
Brower, T. (2021, February 14). The Future of Work Will Demand these 8 New Skills. Forbes.
Leslie, I. (2015). Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On it. London: Basic Books.
Nightingale, F. (2021, May 12). 30 Greatest Florence Nightingale Quotes for Nurses. Retrieved from Nurse Buff: https://www.nursebuff.com/florence-nightingale-quotes/