Most people believe they can learn a skill if they put in the necessary time and effort (according to a survey in A Skills Based Approach to Developing a Career). And this is apparent in everyday life; people are willing to give learning a skill a try.

One example is learning physical skills in sports. Players are willing to build their skills in practice for their own growth and that of the team. Some improve marginally, others improve immensely; some play just for the season, others for the rest of their lives. Regardless, over a specified period, all players commit to learning skills. Tim Hurson had a similar observation of the similarity between building physical and cognitive skills and coined the phrase: “Will, Skill, Drill”.

Passions may influence what skills a person samples and works on. Within the context of a Skills Culture, an HBR article sums this up well: “They (passions) can be developed with involvement and persistence”. Again, this alludes to the premise people inherently believe they can learn skills. If a person is unsuccessful developing skills behind a passion, they pivot into something else with an evolving skill set.

I say over emphasizing abilities, talents, and passions fosters a fixed mindset. People feel they must identify these elements, and rigidly plan and build his or her career around them. The problems are: what if a person does not have one; what if a person has no interest in a talent or ability; or what if outside influences or environment factors does not let a person develop them.

On the other hand, thinking in skills is a growth mindset. People develop skills (using the Skills Based Approach methodology) where they learn what they need for personal, work, or career purposes. And this is an important distinction of a Skills Culture: people do not have to become a master ninja (spend 10,000 hours) to learn a new skill, just goes as far they want or need to.

Part of a Skills Culture is an inherent responsibility to learn any new skill on an ad hoc basis (what I call the ‘Agile Worker’). Many positions require the application of multidisciplinary skills. For example, an accountant might be asked to do programming or a teacher might be asked to do graphic design. Adding breadth to a skill set expands a person’s perspectives. According the same HBR article mentioned above: “(A growth mindset) may expand people’s interest repertoire, which perhaps can be helpful for making connections across areas and generating novel ideas”.

Finally, a Skills Culture is a determination to apply skills properly in every experience (work, learn, and play). This is a ‘can do’ attitude.