In my previous life as an academic, one of the projects I worked on while at Griffith University was the Griffith Graduate Project. The component that I was involved with looked at how to help undergraduate students acquire the suite of skills commonly referred to as Generic Skills. Generic skills are capacities and abilities that are not domain specific. In other words they are highly portable skills that can be transferred and applied across different work settings and contexts.
Traditional Generic Skills
Although there is no one definitive list of generic skills, typically they include skills such as communication (which always seems to be at the top of the list) written and oral; problem-solving and analytical thinking; using and managing a wide range of technology; personal skills (such as self-management and self-reliance, reflectiveness, flexibility); and creative thinking. The argument was, and still is, that these skills increase professional effectiveness and therefore employability. Hence they are also sometimes referred to as employability skills or soft skills. Technical skills, sometimes referred to as hard skills, are important of course and form the foundation for the development of expertise, but this complementary suite of generic skills is also essential in order to:
- Deploy those technical, domain-specific skills effectively
- Participate and contribute successfully in the workplace
- Work well with others in different contexts and in different ways.
It Is Time to Revise the List
As we near the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century it is time to revise what constitutes that skillset. Of course the traditional generic skills are still important. To be effective in our workplaces we still need to communicate well and be technologically literate and work well with others. But today we ALSO need to be confident about:
- Launching new ventures that will solve problems in new ways
- Finding opportunities to innovate and add value without being asked
- Challenging the status quo to shift paradigms that are limiting the profitability or positive impact that the organisation could potentially have
- Generally helping to shape the future of the organisation.
In short – INTRAPRENEURIALISM.
Today most employers feel the pressure to innovate. They are aware that the future belongs to those businesses and organisations who can successfully adapt, stay relevant and be future ready. Logically, they want employees who are going to be able to help them with that mission and contribute to the organisation’s success. Consequently I think it might be time to add intrapreneurialism to the list of generic skills.
In her opening address to the World Economic Forum in Amman Jordan in 2011, Queen Rania of Jordan made the statement “The skills of the entrepreneur are the skills of the Twenty First Century worker.” In other words, entrepreneurial skills are not reserved for an exclusive few; they should be part of everyone’s skill sets – whether you are starting your own businesses or whether you work inside a large organisation – or any organisation for that matter. Intrapreneurialism, if nurtured and embraced, makes careers successful and workplaces SOAR.