Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit
Top image: Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1889, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

 

At the end of his book, Brandwashed, Martin Lindstrom writes: “In my experience, we all have three bank accounts. As most of the world knows, the first is where you stash your money. The second—our personal brand account—is the place where we actively innovate or enhance our brand. Just as critical is our third account, which I dub our exploration account, a time, period, or state of mind when we learn, improve ourselves, or just plain evolve… or enhance our personal brand”… and then he poses this question: “When did you last set aside a time to strengthen the skills you were born with?” If skills are the new currency for learning and development, it does make sense to use the word “account” in this context.

I ended my last blog post with a quote from an article by Tim Brown. He leaves us with a thought about an “un-algorithmic fingerprint to the human process that may never be replaced.” Of course, this human touch is discussed in the context of professional engagement. He is concerned with the ascent of AI and the balance between human and non-human sides of work.

How to capture the characteristics of this personal or professional brand that we own? What are the attributes that we can measure and apply to position ourselves in a meaningful way? What is the universal language that we can use to describe our professional careers? Skills seem to possess the qualities and flexibility to portray this unique fingerprint that we all have accurately. Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind describe members of today’s professions by how and to which degree they share four overlapping similarities. It is based on Ludwig Wittgenstein‘s concept of “family resemblance.”

(1) professionals have specialist knowledge;
(2) admission to the profession depends on credentials;
(3) activities are regulated; and
(4) professionals are bound by the common set of values.

It is an interesting representation. If applied to the roles that we play in our professional lives, it is not necessary that a particular role contains a set of common attributes. Instead, we look at an overlapping set of similarities. This approach gives us enough flexibility in describing, for instance, the role of a Product Manager and how this role can be organized and described differently depending on the context. Skills, categorized and enhanced by the level of expertise and connected to experiences are well positioned to portray professional portrait.

From research at TeamFit, we have learned that people have a hard time identifying their own skills. Most of us think about our work in terms of roles, or projects. If you think about professionals—any professional for that matter—and how they interact with society, the interactions are based on the exchange of expertise. We can associate a professional by the role played in these interactions, and one way to define a role is as a set of skills needed for these interactions. There is another dimension to this though. Some skills do not apply directly to the role, interactions, or services provided. Foundational skills are an example of this (the skills we use to build other skills). A broad understanding of skills is needed to sketch an overall representation of a person. All of the skills that we acquire over the course of our life, private or professional, contribute. Skills define who we are.

If you haven’t seen Loving Vincent, the first fully painted animated feature film, written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, please put aside some time to do it. It’s a beautiful production. Being able to view the world through the impressionist’s eyes is magical. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, it was created by a team of 125 painters. No doubt, many, many skills helped to achieve this award-winning result.

“Real painters do not paint things as they are … They paint them as they themselves feel them to be.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh, from a letter to his brother, Theo.

In the work we do, the roles we play, we apply our knowledge and skills to complete the assignment, to support the team, to make a meaningful contribution towards the goal of a project. Our skills go beyond a narrow set of technical competencies. Many other skills define who we are. The skills that accumulate over the years, both in our professional and private capacity, are like a painting of our life. Skills are the building blocks that help us to verify, understand and communicate what we do. Van Gogh taught us that “the blue must be accompanied by yellow and orange.” In the same way, each of us have skills that are used together (associated skills) and skills that we use to connect different areas of expertise (connecting skills). There are also the complementary skills, skills held by two different people that they use together to perform a complex task. At TemFit we are pushing this research further, looking at the different skill archetypes that we find (skills archetypes are associated skills associated with a specific role, there seem to be several different archetypes for each major role, there are different ways to carry out our work).

So, how can I paint my portrait using skills as paints? Oh boy, I can’t believe I wrote this. It sounds pretty tacky, doesn’t it? But seriously, can you describe yourself using skills? Is it possible? And if it is, will this change the way we look at our careers?

Request a demo. TeamFit is well positioned to help you visualize the existing skills in your organization, to find gaps between your current set and the set that will allow you to fulfill your aspirations – as an individual or an organization. Building a skill profile is a lot of fun. I guarantee, it will surprise you.