As with many things in the context of the Social Age, when it comes to thinking about ‘Capability’, we should probably consider it in terms of an evolved foundation and understanding, away from a ‘unit of one’, toward a ‘unit of many’, away from something static and into something fluid, away from purely formalised, into something socially co-created.
The skills of one individual relate to utilitarian output (i can do a thing), an ability to learn (i can learn to do a thing), as well as enablement (i can set the conditions for you to do a thing), and context (i can contribute to a culture that permits you to do a thing). Capability is held largely in these latter features: the interconnectivity of skills, the enablement of culture, and the contexts of leadership and support.
Perhaps we could frame the evolution in a different way: how we used to plug people into an Organisation, according to their known skill, but in a Socially Dynamic model we would connect people within a scaffolding, and from their catalysed skills the Organisation would emerge.
It may sound like semantics, but it’s true in a very practical way: models that consider the individual as a unit, and skills as additive, tend towards styles of management and control. Systems that are founded upon enablement and growth will tend towards styles of creativity and dynamism. To a degree, emergent, but within a scaffolding that we can construct.
I admit this is still very conceptual, but we do see concrete traces of an evolution in progress: the ways that knowledge has tangibly evolved (in it’s mechanisms of creation and validation), the ways that learning has evolved (to be distributed and increasingly dialogic and adaptive), the ways that leadership has evolved (to be increasingly social and consensual).
Last week i was in a conversation about how some skills were ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, which is of course a legacy fallacy about control: the notion that warriors held hard skills, and those with no edge could be ‘soft’, the idea that soft skills were not tangible or even measurable. If anything, we see in a world that strives towards agility that it is those formerly ‘soft’ areas that are the most enabling and valuable. Connectors, enablers, authentic actors.
Much of our thinking about the evolution of the modern Organisation is reactionary, but conceived (or conceited) of as revolutionary. But the real chance that exists at this boundary time is to reconcile, to reimagine, the foundations. Rethink the notions upon which we build.