Know Your Competence Silos
As you know, I’m intensely interested in productivity and success, and in finding ways to boost them both. So I was intrigued to come across an interesting perspective that can help that quest.
It involves dividing up activities, efforts, and plans into four categories:
- What you’re good at.
- What you may soon become good at.
- What you’re not good at.
- What you may never be good at.
It’s not a totally radical way of looking at the world, because business school students are generally taught that people and organizations should concentrate on doing what they do best and should get everything else done by making deals with others – presumably others who are the best at doing those other things.
This is basically the same notion, but a little more fluid.
Once you know what you’re good at and what you’re not, you can pay more attention to keeping most of your activities, efforts, and plans well within your competence “silos” and shying away from your weaker areas.
For example, if someone asks me for help, advice, or even just an opinion in an area I’m never going to be good at – music, for example, or the study of philosophy – my first response is to caution them not to rely on me. I may ask some questions and help them think through the matter on their own. I may also offer some credible generalities I’ve encountered in the past. But I make sure they don’t take me as any kind of expert.
On the other hand, if I’m asked about something I’m good at – or even if I see a loved one, friend, or colleague getting involved in some area I’m good at – I am often willing to step forward and engage with them. Assuming they are receptive, I may also offer an opinion, advice, or even an appropriate amount of help.
The fluidity of this “silo” concept arises in the other two categories: “What I may soon be good at,” and “What I’m not good at.” These are areas in which I may yet develop more competence, particularly if I am making an effort to improve.
As I increase my skills, knowledge, and experience in either of these “silos,” I may feel comfortable upgrading them. With enough time and effort, I can even elevate a particular skill or ability all the way into the “What I’m good at” category.
How effectively this “silo” concept increases my focus on productivity and success depends heavily on my honesty in appraising my strengths and weaknesses, and on asking those I trust to help me fine-tune these appraisals. I’m hoping to over-estimate or under-estimate my capabilities as little as possible.
Of course, actual reality involves extra complications. Within each “silo,” my competence and mastery vary. There are some tasks and skills I’m very good at, some I’m moderately good at, some I used to be good at but haven’t practiced in a while, and so forth. There are some I will never excel at, and others I could learn if I were willing to put in enough time and effort. I try to stay aware of these subtleties.
As with most aspects of life, you can keep peeling the layers of this “silo” concept – like an onion – and continuously reveal new wrinkles, nuances, and layers. Possibly forever. But that hidden complexity doesn’t negate the inherent value of trying to know your strengths and weaknesses, and to honor them in every aspect of your work and your life.
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