Transferable Skills

Or: The Philosophy of Strategy Made Simple

How skilled do you think you are at your job? How skilled are you at your hobbies? Is your skill level between your work activities and your hobbies connected?

I believe if you find ways to connect the different skills you have, you will be more effective in all areas. In looking at different aspects of your skills, you can find useful perspectives that you already use, but in different areas of your life.

Typically, only soft skills are described as transferable skills. Abilities like public speaking, leadership, time management, and interpersonal skills. I allow the definition to be quite a bit wider than that. I include understanding different organizational systems, competence with specific technical software, and understanding design principles as transferable skills, as well as most other technical skills.

With each new skill that is added to your toolkit, you get a new mindset that can be drawn on. Whenever you are actively using a skill, you may notice that you start to see what you do in a different way. You shift into a different mindset to better use your skill.

For example, people who play a lot of sports start so see the movement in the play area in a different way than a casual observer will. This is like how chess masters observing a game see it in a way that others will not.


The effect of transferable skills are only accented as you gain more expertise in each skill. 


At the beginning, when learning chess, the player is focused on remembering how each different piece can move, and how they take other pieces. Once the player has that element of the skill mastered, they can start to see how because of those movement and capture rules, pieces can protect or endanger other pieces to start working together.

As they get more experience with using pieces to protect their own pieces and endanger their opponents, they will start to see how the movements of other pieces can open opportunities to take advantage of their positioning. After this, the player usually starts to see the play that is about to occur, rather than simply the state of the board as it is.

Eventually, and with enough practice, the experienced player can glance at the board of a game in progress and have a feeling for the momentum of the game and maybe even be able to predict who will win with confidence.

When thinking about developing skills such as those used in chess, you can see how the mentality and perspective of the learner changes as their expertise grows. Each of these steps are useful, and can be used to better understand other aspects of work and life.

The player that is looking 3 or 4 turns ahead is practicing anticipating and preparing for various uncertain outcomes. This is a skill that would be very useful for a growing enterprise. They are also practicing breaking down a complex interaction into specific steps. This mindset would be useful for learning other skills, such as how to develop computer programs, or for planning events.


Learning how to slip into the different mindsets you have available based on your current skills and previous experiences is important to find creative solutions to problems.


To learn how to use the different mindsets that you already have access to, you have to be aware of how you think differently when completing different tasks, or doing different activities. Start by taking a moment to observe how you think while you are in the middle of one of your hobbies. As you practice noticing your mindsets, you will begin to be able to describe your different thought patterns.

You can also accent your transferable skills by bringing together teams from diverse backgrounds. Each member of the team will bring the perspectives from their professional and personal lives that can contribute to creative solutions to problems.

When confronted with problems, you can individually ask different members of your team for their perspective on how to best solve the problem based on their expertise. Once you have several perspectives recorded, you can collect them and bring them to the team for review. You can also use this method to increase the effectiveness of your existing methods.

The idea of transferable skills is the philosophy that drives Strategy Made Simple. I record interviews with a diverse group of people with skills in many different areas of business, non-profits, and social enterprise with the hope of providing new perspectives.

It is my hope that you can learn something from the perspectives and methods that others outside your field or experience. Perhaps some part of their perspective might help you come up with a new idea for a program, product or service that can help the wider public.

I suggest that the next time you come across a difficult problem within your work, try to talk about it with someone from outside of your field of expertise. If you are working in the finance department of a non-profit, maybe talk with a general contractor. If you work as a manager in a social enterprise, try talking with someone who works in a creative industry.

I think you may be surprised by the new solutions you will find by inviting fresh mindsets and other perspectives into your problem-solving strategies.

Just remember: keep it simple.