Last time, we looked into why competences are important for your job and your salary. Now, we are taking the opportunity to discuss how to actually gain competences. I recently put up the website for competences and this post here is a part to get some more focus on the competence matter as announced.
The first way to improve a competence is to admit that you need an improvement. The reasoning can be multifold but usually it is a urge that a task is not within one capabilities. This is common when you do a certain set of tasks the first time. Personally, I like cooking examples – so let us take a drastic one: How to open an avocado. Honestly, I do not care right now how to open it but it is more risky than you might think on first glance.
Theory and praxis
Let us assume that the competence to enhance is to open an avocado. There are two possibilties to engange this challenge. Either you try it by your own or you do your research to learn the basics. The “learning by doing” method is also known by “try and error”. You just try to anticipate the steps and advance step by step. Not every step will lead to a success and in the end you have to fight for your advances each time. In the end, you might even hurt yourself. Slipping with the knife can cut your hand. In Fig. 1 you can think of each stair step as one step for your task. Climbing a step will lead to some insights, the sum of all those insights and a repetitive training will be your competence gain.
Theory has the benefit that you can learn and preplan your steps up for your task. You can read the articles of how other people mastered this art. In a way, learning by theory is cheating the learning by doing process considering that the theory is faster processed. For our stair figure it means that you might have intermediate steps or ladders to climb up the task’s goal. You know about the demands.
For the avocado example, this means that you learn now by reading that you need a knive and a spoon. You read the instructions or are looking for a Youtube video that you can follow. However, you still need to do it. Learning the theory is again just an preplaning that can help you in the process but you still have to train it. Just after opening 5 to 10 avocados, you will have your routine to call your skill a competence.
Learning by doing pros and cons
If you try your way just in the learning by doing manner, you will have some challenges. For the avocado example, you might take a knife and try it in different ways but the problem is here that you will for sure need more avocados than you can eat to get the experience on how to open them. Thus, the learning by doing method has the problem that it takes more investment of time and money to produce results. For practical reasons, even by learning theory before, you need investments but it is significantly more. On the other hand, you will need the learning by doing method if you do things for the first time ever. Assuming there is no literature to learn from, it might be your only way to advance.
Learning by doing is also used for innovation matters. Because researching a method for gaining competence, you basically just predefine your way. Sure, you advance faster but you might miss better opportunities to do the task in a better way. Most of the innovation is actually hindered by predefinition, meaning that one does things a certain way because everybody always did it like this. Sometimes one has to go back to the roots and try to check how to innovate. If you find better ways, you will have a benefit and this you can monetize.
Lead and Led is about leading in general, so let us leave the personal perspective and look more into the business perspective. Even companies have competences. These are the sums of the competences of their machines and people. The dependency of competences to certain people is for the matter of sustainability difficult because they can change their positions as they wish.
The only way to ensure a sustainable competence scheme is to document every step along the way. Most companies are very weak here because documentation is an investment that does not reflect a direct benefit for future costs in real numbers. It comes back to opportunity costs and here the overview . For the ISO 9001 standard, there is a demand to have an interal learning system to ensure a thorough documentation. This is vital for the long term development of a company and ensures to stay ahead of the competitors.