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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 10, individuals will show that they can actively seek out and consider different perspectives. 

In recent steps, the focus has been on how to develop ideas – going beyond just creating them to exploring them further through mind mapping and other tools, and then interrogating them through questioning. This next step introduces the importance of looking at ideas from different perspectives to improve them further.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What different perspectives are, and how to seek them out
  • How to make sense of different perspectives and use them to improve ideas

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by perspectives?
  • Why might there be very different perspectives on the same idea?
  • Where can we get different perspectives from?
  • How can you make sense of different perspectives?
  • Can you incorporate every perspective?
  • If not, how do you prioritise them?

What you need to know

What is a perspective?

A perspective is a point of view that someone has of something. The term perspective is also used in art and design, referring to how a three-dimensional landscape looks different depending on when one stands relative to it. This is a helpful idea to bear in mind – we might be looking at the same thing, but from our two different viewpoints it ends up looking very different.

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Secondary effects

Creativity and Problem Solving are intertwined, and if you’ve started to look at the Problem Solving steps, particularly Step 10, you will have seen that there are sometimes effects that come from an idea which are unexpected – these are called secondary effects. These secondary effects might be positive, or they might be negative. In any case, they are certainly worth consideration.

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Different viewpoints

As we develop our Creativity skills, we need to be more challenging of our own ideas and considering different viewpoints is an important part of that. For instance, a tall person might have a very different view of lowering ceiling heights of rooms to improve energy efficiency to a shorter person. Someone with longer legs will be less enthusiastic about airlines saving money by putting seats closer together. In these cases, it is important to think about different perspectives and different needs when developing ideas.

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Capturing different perspectives

When we develop ideas, we do it mainly from our perspective. You can find different perspectives in a variety of ways, by thinking about these questions:

  • Who else might end up being a user of your idea? 
  • In what ways might those individuals vary? 
  • Do they have different needs or success criteria?
  • Are there changes that are needed to make an idea feasible for them?
  • What changes might other people suggest to your idea, and why? 

These questions should give you a view of who your different stakeholders are – stakeholders are those groups of individuals who might share a common perspective on your idea.

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Compromise and differentiation

It is one thing to gather lots of different perspectives, but it is quite another to try to make sense of the results. This brings us on to the critical concept of trade-offs: we are unlikely to be able to fully satisfy everyone, all of the time.

To extend those examples from before – for a shorter person, lower ceilings are worthwhile because they lower heating costs. For a taller person, they want higher ceilings so that they don’t feel constrained. In this case, compromise becomes important – what is the ceiling height that achieves the best trade-off of being high enough so that even tall people can feel comfortable, but as low as possible to be energy efficient. 

For someone with shorter legs, they will be pleased that their seat price is lower as a result of the airline being more efficiently filled with paying passengers. The individual with longer legs would probably pay more to be less comfortable. In this case differentiation might be possible – that is, having different options for different passengers. This is why some airlines have seats available with more leg space at an extra cost – only those passengers who need the space would be willing to pay the extra, which means that everyone gets closer to what they are looking for. 

These are two examples of how to reconcile different perspectives: compromise and differentiation.

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Prioritising different perspectives

There is a third important point though, which is that sometimes you need to prioritise. Perhaps ultimately your idea can’t be for everyone, and you have to choose what the most important priority is. For example, if your intention was to help a particular marginalised or disadvantaged group, then you might prioritise their perspective over others. To be able to prioritise, you need to have a clear view of what your focus and success criteria are.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

The teacher can introduce the idea that we need to take different perspectives by sharing a plan – for example, lengthening the school day. Together with learners, the various stakeholders to this idea can be identified – potentially including teachers, learners, parents, and others. 

Learners are divided into different groups to represent each of these stakeholder groups and challenged to come up with their perspective on the idea. These different perspectives can be shared as a fuller group

Carefully supported by the teacher, learners can then be challenged to think about how they would balance these different perspectives, thinking about the concepts of:

  •      Compromise – is there a middle ground that would satisfy most perspectives?
  •      Differentiation – could we create options that work for different stakeholders? 
  •      Prioritisation – which perspectives matter the most?

This exercise can then be repeated by thinking about a different challenge. For example, banning learners from being dropped off at school by car. This time, learners are given less scaffolding and have to identify the stakeholder, perspectives and approach to managing those different perspectives themselves. 

Reinforcing it

The idea of different perspectives lends itself well to many different areas of learning. For example, considering historical events from different perspectives, or the perspectives of different characters in literature. 

Some of the trade-offs that have to be made in coming up with development policies could be considered in geography, for example, or how businesses try to compromise, differentiate and prioritise could we well captured in business studies.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured challenge – giving learners an idea as a starting point and then asking them to bring different perspectives to that idea, and then to reach some way of reconciling or making sense of those perspectives through compromise, differentiation or prioritisation.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who is involved in generating and developing ideas.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain to an individual the value of considering different perspectives when developing ideas. 
  • Model how to consider different perspectives on an idea. To achieve this a manager might use the example of a new product and show a process of finding different perspectives on this idea by asking the questions explored above.
  • Task an individual with an exercise that is about making sense of different perspectives. A manager might achieve this by setting an exercise which requires an individual to reconcile different perspectives on a new product idea.
  • Reflect with the individual about what they might find difficult about considering different perspectives when developing ideas.

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: When discussing the potential trade-offs that have to be made between opportunities or ideas. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When creating a new customer benefit with a focus on balancing perspectives to achieve the best result.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is can be assessed through discussion. For instance:

  • Asking an individual to identify what the different perspectives on an issue or topic might be. Here there should be a focus on listening to understand how the individual would approach balancing these different perspectives.
  • The individual should be able to provide evidence that they have sought out different perspectives on ideas that they have been developing. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Observing an individual during an assessed exercise. The exercise should simulate a situation where the individual needs to consider different perspectives on an idea that is given and then to reach some way of reconciling or making sense of those perspectives through compromise, differentiation or prioritisation. An example exercise that could be used might be a stakeholder meeting where the individual should propose a solution based on a careful evaluation of perspectives on an issue.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

While it is helpful to question our own ideas, we can learn much more when we consider different points of view. New perspectives help us to see things differently and understand factors we may not have thought about. We might consider the perspectives of our peers, teachers or different information sources to help us develop our own ideas and broaden our thinking.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

When working with others, we will need to be able to consider different viewpoints and may be challenged to reach a compromise in our thinking. We may use this skill to better understand our co-workers, clients or customers. A range of perspectives can help lead us to a more well-rounded and considered solution which we may not have reached if working on our own. However, it is also important to be able to prioritise when evaluating a range of different perspectives to help you identify the solution which best meets your success criteria.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Opening up our minds to understand different perspectives helps us grow, stretch our thinking and seethe world from diverse viewpoints. By learning more about others and ourselves, we can also build stronger relationships.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Creativity, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • When making something for someone, imagine what is important to them? What would they find interesting or useful?
  • When making a group decision, ask yourself if there is a middle ground that would satisfy most perspectives?
  • If reading a book or watching television, how would the story be different if it were told from another character’s perspective?
  • How would you retell a well-known fairy-tale from the perspective of the villain?
  • Before you finish a piece of work, ask one or two others to share their perspective with you. Can you use their thoughts to improve your ideas?

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step