A greater emphasis is being placed on a worker's' transferable skills—especially when developing adaptive workers. Learn about the intersection of adaptive skills and knowledge, and the five critical transferable skills.
- We all have a range of skills that we use in our work and in our lives but it turns out there is one specific kind of skill that helps us most is adapting to constant change. A brilliant and gentle man named Sidney Fine was a researcher at the Department of Labor in the 1950s and he studied the range of skills that people bring to bare on their work. He realized there were a very few fundamental categories of skills, you can boil the broad range of human skills down into two bins.
The first category he called special knowledges which today we just call knowledges. These are skills that are rooted in a particular field or context. Knowing brain surgery will help you quite a bit at the operating table and it will obviously help your patients as well but it won't help you that much when you're trying to change a flat tire. The other category of skills is transferable. These are skills that are used in a variety of different situations. If you were good in social situations when you were a kid, you're probably pretty good at them as an adult.
Now, transferable skills have four different objects or targets, data, people, things, and yourself. If you like working with data or information, you probably have transferable skills that are related to using words or numbers. If you like working with people, you probably have a variety of skills related to different social situations. If you like working with things, your transferable skills are probably linked to working with your hands or using your body in situations like sports.
The fourth object of your transferable skills is yourself, which is why they're called self-management skills. These transferable skills relate to the ways you move in the world from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night and everything in between. Whether or not you're often on time for appointments or if you tend to get your work done by a deadline. It's your self-management transferable skills that determine how well or how poorly you perform those tasks.
Now, in the past, knowledges mattered tremendously in a wide range of fields. Before the internet, information was relatively difficult to find and to use. You had to go to a library or be good at researching by talking to people. You often had to go to school for long periods of time to learn a particular trade or to get a specific degree. Now, there are still plenty of fields that require deep learning for us to be proficient at them but it's becoming increasingly easy to find the information we need to do a wide range of work in a relatively short period of time.
So, in the balance of knowledges versus transferable skills, we're starting to see a shift towards a greater emphasis or transferable skills, especially when we're trying to help develop adaptive workers. Of course there are dozens of transferable skills. In What Is Your Parachute author Dick Bolles developed a list of over 60 of them. You can check out the complete list in the exercise files but it turns out there are probably five transferable skills which are particularly valuable when we're focused on developing adaptive workers especially those who work in teams.
These critical transferable skills include initiating, which is a skill that requires you to be proactive. Problem solving which involves a range of smaller skills to deconstruct challenges and devise solutions on your own. Collaborating, engaging in the critical give and take of developing solutions with others. Risking and experimenting, which requires you to put yourself out there and take a few risks. Remember, the phrase isn't trial and success, it's trial and error.
And, finally, adapting, which is its own unique skill, requiring you to navigate unfamiliar waters and then do something new. What's most important to understand is that while knowledges are essential for many lines of work, it's these kinds of transferable skills that are the most critical for developing adaptive workers and since more and more knowledges are becoming available to us just in time, it's those transferable skills that will become increasingly more important for adaptive workers and for a complete list of transferable skills, check out the exercise files, you may be surprised to find how many transferable skills there are and how many you're good at and you'll probably discover there are several you can gain a lot by improving.
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- Characteristics of adaptive workers
- How to be an adaptive manager
- Honing self-management skills
- Developing proactive workers
- Importance of goals in adaptive work
- Developing and supporting remote workers
- Empowering adaptive workers to solve problems
- Collaboration and adaptive teams