The 12 Core Human Skills

Elab­or­at­ing on a concept from one of my favour­ite posts writ­ten by Dilbert cre­at­or Scott Adams (career advice: either “become the best at one spe­cif­ic thing” or “become very good (top 25%) at two or more things”), Josh Kauf­man of Per­son­al MBA sug­gests the 12 core human skills that we should strive to become very good at (top 25%) if we wish to suc­ceed.

  • Inform­a­tion-Assim­il­a­tion
  • Writ­ing
  • Speak­ing
  • Math­em­at­ics
  • Decision-Mak­ing
  • Rap­port
  • Con­flict-Res­ol­u­tion
  • Scen­ario-Gen­er­a­tion
  • Plan­ning
  • Self-Aware­ness
  • Inter­re­la­tion
  • Skill Acquis­i­tion

As Josh says, “take a moment to ima­gine all of the things you’d be able to accom­plish if you improved your skills to the point where you ranked in the top 25% of the human pop­u­la­tion in each of these areas”.

3 thoughts on “The 12 Core Human Skills

  1. Cedar

    I have to say that although I love this blog, and I find myself sav­ing many of your links and insights for later use in my classes, I find this one vague and mis­lead­ing about the nature of skills, both in terms of how the human mind works as well as how the human brain works. These would all be good skills to have, if they were instan­ti­ated in our brain at the same level of gen­er­al­ity that they are described in busi­ness books. But they are not. No one is gen­er­ally good at skill acquis­i­tion.
    You could take just about any one of these and find that if you thought someone was in “the top 25%” in this one, they are actu­ally in the top 25% of a very nar­row sub­cat­egory. How many people who are great “inform­a­tion-assim­il­at­ors” in busi­ness can­’t seem to make a rela­tion­ship work by remem­ber­ing import­ant things about their sig­ni­fic­ant oth­ers, or remem­ber­ing some­thing they read in the news­pa­per yes­ter­day? How many aca­dem­ic experts in any giv­en field can integ­rate inform­a­tion out­side of their field? Not really that many, which is not a lim­it­a­tion of these people, but a con­straint on the nature of skill in the human brain.
    Just about any study of expert­ise or skill acquis­i­tion (Anders Eric­sson, etc) or the notion of trans­fer (of skills from one domain to anoth­er) has led to the con­clu­sion that “skills” like any of these on the list are way too gen­er­al.
    If you want to become a bet­ter car sales­man, prac­tice being a car sales­man (delib­er­ate prac­tice with feed­back). If you want to become a bet­ter his­tory teach­er, prac­tice teach­ing his­tory. Try­ing to improve your “rap­port” skills, or your “speak­ing” skills will only get you so far without any know­ledge and prac­tice that is very spe­cif­ic to your con­text.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    I agree, even though a year ago I would­n’t have.

    For a year now I’ve been improv­ing my pub­lic speak­ing by attend­ing Toast­mas­ters reg­u­larly and get­ting up in front of 20-odd strangers to talk twice a month.

    When it came to giv­ing my O’Reilly Ignite speech a few months back, how­ever, the nerves I felt on my first night at Toast­mas­ters greeted me again, even though I was just ‘pub­lic speak­ing’.

    As you say, prac­tice and know­ledge that is very spe­cif­ic to your con­text is the key, and in this situ­ation I was more than adept at speak­ing at Toast­mas­ters because I knew what to expect. At Ignite, I was lost. I was­n’t sure what to expect and felt those nerves again.

    Con­text is key, and get­ting so spe­cif­ic can be det­ri­ment­al.

    Scott picked this art­icle up and sug­ges­ted that in fact these skills can be dis­tilled to some­thing more gen­er­al: Com­mu­nic­ate Well, Play Well with Oth­ers, Keep Learn­ing, Plan for the Future.

    In this situ­ation, I find the gen­er­al­ity slightly super­i­or.

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