What skills differentiate you from people in your profession? What skills do you have that surprise you?

In my twenties I worked mostly on my own. I was what we call today a ‘sole contributor.’ I did a variety of work. I made most of my money as a technical translator from Japanese to English. I also did some economic modelling work and dabbled in book design. Then I moved to Vancouver.

That was back in 1988. I had three kids and really needed to earn a living. So I took whatever work I could get, mostly translation of all sorts of things, birth certificates, patents, the evidence for a major commercial arbitration on coal prices. I took on so much work I could not do it all.

So I started to hire people. At first, I hired people who were a lot like me, with similar skill sets. I transferred work and took on the management and quality control. Then one, day, and I remember the day well, I was walking down a street near my home and I realized that with ten people working with me I had something that looked a lot like a company, and that a company was a kind of living thing.

I started looking for people with skills very different than the ones I had. I began to hire designers, real coders, project managers and writers. We built a great company together over the years and many of us still work together today (there are four people from this company at TeamFit and another has just begun to coach us on our service design).

What let us grow, as individuals and as a company is that we have very different skill sets. At TeamFit, inside the skill graph, we call these complementary skills. And that is part of the raison d’être of TeamFit. To help people find other people with complementary skills. It is by putting together people with complementary skills that we optimize teams. Great managers do this instinctively, but we now have the systems and data to augment this with machine intelligence and to make this a general capability within the reach of all managers.

That is not the only reason to learn about each other’s skills.  I am also interested in people who share a similar skill profile to my own. Why do I care? Well, part of it is simple competitiveness. I want to be among the best at what I do and I like to compare myself to others. Call it benchmarking. But that get’s boring pretty quickly. What I am really interested in is the edge skills that people have. I want an answer to the question “What other skills do people like me have?” I am interested in this as it can give me ideas about other skills that I might have or skills that I might want to develop.

At the organizational level we have called these ‘trace skill.’ Skills that are like trace minerals, you don’t need to have a lot of them, but the ones you do have are often what drives your differentiation. See the post Looking for your long-tail skills for more on this from an organizational perspective. For individuals, they work differently. You want to have some combination of skills that is different from other people in your profession. Something that sets you apart and that gives you a creative edge when you need to solve problems and find new ways to work with other people.

As TeamFit evolves it will get better and better at answering these two questions.

  1. Who should I work with?
  2. What skills should I add?

Answering these two questions will help us to build better teams.

It will help each of us build up our own skills.

Most importantly it will help people connect with each other, to build teams, get stuff done, change the world.Save & Exit

Top image shows a relevance network between genes and drug effects. Network science has principles and ideas that are shared across a wide range of different phenomena.