New Skill Set

Meme – Skill Shift

The skill set of 21st Century Innovation has changed, outdating late 20th Century skills.

The machine model of an organization, a framework of repeatable processes and standardized resources, is being replaced by a business model based on original creative action.  To succeed in this new 21st Century environment, teams will need a rich new set of “high order” skills based on conceptual, aesthetic, and emotional sophistication. 

Meeting this demand requires more than simply updating technical skills. The very nature of what people are good at needs to change.  This will have a far reaching impact on work, personal development and team leadership. 

High order skills have historically been associated with professions that leverage self-directed individual contributions, such as Art and Sales.  Teams need people with the ability to:

  • Invent – imagine original new ideas
  • Synthesize – integrate multiple diverse elements
  • Artistic Creativity – artistic sensibility applied to architecture and design
  • Persuade / Negotiate / Lead – drive forward collaborative win-win action
  • Solve Chaotic Problems – resolve problems without precedents or patterns

In contrast, 20th Century organizations tended to value concrete analytical work, management control, and defined tasks that could be repeatedly taught to any qualified candidate.    

Vestigial habits, assumptions, and organizational structures that were developed around outdated 20th Century skills will need to be replaced.   Leaders of Innovative Teams will need to make board changes in how they:

  • Find Talent – a new pool of uniquely skilled resources must be identified and nurtured
  • Define Work – work must be defined in terms of the new skills with appropriate measures
  • Engage Resources – resources must be identified, chosen, and rewarded based on their new skills
  • Empower and Manage Skills – work environments must allow new skills to be fully applied and well managed


The skills that contribute to success have changed.  The team needs to change with them. 

Good Reads: 

A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink

Brainstorming Questions

  • What skills do we have built into our team design?   Just analytical and managerial?  Where are the artists and salespersons?
  • How do we identify and evaluate a person’s high level skills?
  • Do we want high level skills … but spell out narrow analytical skills in our job descriptions or performance reviews?
  • Do we let people work in ways that leverage high level skills?
  • How do we know that someone with high level  skills has done a good job?

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