Key Skills For Success


Good, succinct post on Fast Company on key skills for success for (graduate) designers – however they apply much more widely!

Judging by the number of inquiries we’ve received lately there are quite a few recent graduates who have not landed that all-important first job in the profession. Of the few portfolios I’ve reviewed, it seems that this year’s graduates continue the trend of improvement in skills and capabilities. That said, there are several attributes key to success that don’t always get the attention they deserve in most design schools. Ultimately, those attributes will prove as important for a designer’s success in today’s economy as sheer design skill.

Here are the top ten recommended “strengths” (comments omitted):

  • Passionate Curiosity
  • Imagination
  • Objectivity & Self Awareness
  • Crisp Communication
  • Effective Storytelling
  • Flawless Execution
  • Business Acumen
  • Global Awareness
  • Context
  • Talent

I was thinking how this list compared to when I started out in the R&D business (and coming from an academic research background).

I think the first three were also held very highly (curiosity, imagination and objectivity), crisp communication was ‘highly desirable’, storytelling was not mentioned at all (at least explicitly) and execution was not brought out as an item in itself (rather subsumed under the familiar ‘successful projects I have lead include…’).

Business acumen and context were topics everyone talked about in a heated, generic and enthusiastic manner but also with an alarming lack of knowledge or experience. There was already a strong component of global awareness as science is naturally global and surprisingly I found the commercial world rather insular in comparison (and more so the bigger the organisation). I’m talking about the mindset here not the various tools for communication and collaboration.

Talent was probably regarded as the main ingredient as that was meant to somehow compensate for any deficiencies in the other areas.

This topic of good skill mix is an important one and, for example, is related to overcoming the so-called ‘curse of knowledge’ problem found in nearly all organisations.

Interestingly in an interview on BBC R4 today, James Caan was strongly promoting the view that it is precisely the mix of skills that is crucial for business success rather than (academic) excellence in one or two areas.

Photo credit here.


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