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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