Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit


Carlo Rovelli in his book Reality is not what it seems takes the reader to the ancient times and writes “… was Democritus really proposing that everything can be reduced to atoms? Let’s look at this question more closely. Democritus says that when atoms combine, what counts is their form, their arrangement in the structure, as well as the way in which they combine. He gives the example of the letters of the alphabet: there are only twenty or so letters, but as he puts it, “it is possible for them to combine in diverse modes, in order to produce comedies, tragedies, ridiculous stories or epic poems.”

Readers of this blog know that we are getting closer to the release of our Competency Model Builder which will transform TeamFit ecosystem. I found Rovelli’s book very helpful in shape my thinking about the model. If we treat skills as the core value units, the building blocks so to speak, and position them at the atomic level, I see a lot of similarities to the way a skill map with its links and unique arrangements tells a unique story for each TeamFit user.

Rovelli takes it one step further. He asks “if the atoms are also an alphabet, who is able to read the phrases written with this alphabet?” The answer he proposes is ‘the other atoms.’ In other words, there is a correlation between how the atoms arrange themselves, and it is based on the way other atoms are arranged. There are relationships and exchanges of information. This is quite true. It’s always about the relations and the information. Skills come to life in the relationships between people, organizations, or even our thoughts.

I always thought that a skill profile could look like those core samples geologists pull out of the earth. Each layer carries the information and is related to other segments. Even if we limit the available number of skills—I think we should—and the capability level attached to each individual skill, in the context of a job or role, the model view will present us with a rich profile. This single view will be based on how the skills are combined, how they are used in the actual work, how they influence the use of complementary and associative skills. The question is, what story can we tell the using skills as letters, or layers, for that matter? And then, are we going to see a dialogue between the model and individual skill profile?

There is an interesting article on BTS Insights, Competency Models Are Failing. Why? written by David Bernal and Fredrik Schuller. The authors describe some of the reasons behind the dissatisfaction expressed by many organizations. Models are described as stiff, limiting, academic and disconnected with the reality. The management is often not familiar with the current competency model while for the workforce, the model does not represent their current position and the latest trends in talent management. As always, people will have different opinions and expectations. It is natural. Especially nowadays when changes social space combined with hard to keep up technology does planning and modelling hard. How do you prepare for skills that are not yet invented? Well, perhaps the ancient theories and philosophy could help. The correlation between skills, the magnetic-like properties will pull together related skills as well as the competency level attached to them. If you are getting better in a particular task or role by applying a few core skills, you will as well get better in many skills you may not even think about. As I wrote many times, there is no way to just turn-on or off one of your abilities. When you see a written text in the language that you know, you can’t stop yourself from understanding its meaning. It just happens without your permission. I believe the same happens when you apply skills.

We know that Competency Models should not be rigid, stiff and limiting. We know that people learn and change at a very fast paste. Can we invent a model that adapts without changing its core values? I believe we can, and the key is the correlation. The ability to listen to all available signals, deconstruct the information into skills and then uncover which parts of the model need to remain solid forming foundation of the model and which skills need to reflect the reality and challenges of the current workspace. Only then we can change without changing. I think a lot will depend on skill categorization and the choice of the fundamental base that an organization wants to adapt and adhere to.

There is a great book written by Bruce Poon Tip titled Looptail. Bruce is the founder of G Adventures, a truly exciting company. We hear all the time that the brand is your culture, or at least, it should be. But how to turn this statement into reality? It’s about constantly reinventing the business and that’s exactly what drove G Adventures to success.

“If you share our brand with your friends, it’s not because you like our brand, it’s because you love your friends.”

G Adventures reinvented itself many times. While the organization grew and went through many changes, the ability to always adhere to its core values kept them on course. The core values could be defined as a set of foundation skills. Those skills, if we try to build a Competency Model for them, will be constant, but the rest? Well, the rest needs to continually evolve, change and adjust to reflect where we are.

There is a chapter in Looptail called The Death of HR in which Bruce talks about their approach to the hiring process. At one point, they come up with the three main characteristics they were looking for. Here they are:

1 – Creative
2 – Collaborative
3 – Communicative

And the additional four qualities to fit into G Adventures.

4 – Curiosity
5 – Courage
6 – Confidence
7 – Consistency in their beliefs (integrity)

One could easily attach many skills to each point, however, which skills at a certain level of competency should remain constant and which group should offer opportunities to evolve, grow or even subtract skills that are not necessary due to the changes in how the business operates? That is our goal – to provide organizations with a flexible tool not only to model their ideal employee but also allow the employee to signal desires, expectations and career goals.