Invisibility of Skills
by Sean Hull
I’ve spent some time over the last ten years getting more and more into fitness and training. Back around when I hit thirty, I was a little bit overweight, and out of shape compared to my twenties. I decided I needed a change, so I signed up for a martial arts class called Capoeira, which is a Brazilian tradition, filled with inversions, handstands, cartwheels, and all manner of crafty movements. While practicing, you’re immersed in a circular field, where two opponents make faux movements, and pretend to be fighting, all within inches of each other.
There were two things that struck me as very surprising. One was that before seeing someone in the ring, you might not have *any* idea of his or her skill. Some guys were tall and skinny and lacked any skill, but looked like they were muscular enough to be good. Others were a little soft and didn’t look particularly powerful, but in the ring their movements were fluid, and precise. I realized I could not tell or judge someone’s skill until I saw them perform.
The second thing I noticed was how getting in the ring and “performing” brought out aspects of each persons personality in ways that words could not reveal. One person was provocative in the ring, starting trouble, and stirring things up, while another tended to be bashful, preferring to lean back and avoid close contact.
You might guess where I’m going with this, as I think there are real and valuable lessons from this which happen everyday. We’ve all heard the term “looks good on paper” and we have that phrase because we know how many times something – a deal, contract, engagement, or someone – resource, consultant or service provider – has looked good on paper, only to find performance to be lacking in some important way. Another phrase that comes to mind is “talk is cheap”.
So what is the take-away from all of this? Well what it means is that what I’ll call “in-action” skills are quite different from “test-taking” skills. So beware giving too much weight to tests that don’t actually demonstrate in-action or in-the-field performance. Also beware the hype filled resumes, and try to get at real-world experiences, drawing out those with stories, and examples. Service providers, consider giving clients and prospects a *sample* of your services. This can come in a lot of forms, be-it a free analysis or survey, or half day of un-billed time.
Companies looking to hire a provider need to keep in mind that in these tight budgetary times, you can put more conditions on your service providers. So even if they don’t suggest it, you might do so. Ask if the provider might demonstrate in some way, how they can solve real-world problems. Be mindful of and reassure the service provider your intentions, that you’d like to have a clear idea of what level of service you’ll be getting before buying, but that your intention is not to somehow get some free services. It’s the push-and-pull back and forth of this phase of the relationship that provider and client suss each other out, and where the invisible skills materialize.
Review: Mind Tricks
by Steven Saunders
I picked up this book the other day while browsing in a local bookstore in the neighborhood. In business we talk about “getting out of the box” or “expanding the envelope”, and that in a nutshell is exactly what this book is about. From looking at language patterns, reframing how we see ourselves and others, to new methods to improve our memory and much more.
The book is dense and full of great information, but also short, only 58 pages, so for those of us short on time, it’s easy to finish, or thumb through during those little gaps in our schedule. Each pair of pages is a short few paragraphs matched with some quirky and fun drawings illustrating those points on the facing page. It’s a lighthearted book easy to pickup and flip through, but full of big ideas!