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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.


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.


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.


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.


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 12, individuals will show that they actively seek out a range of experiences and stimuli to support them to be creative and innovative.

In the previous step, the focus was on how to be innovative while working as part of a group. This step builds on this by looking at how individuals can bring ideas back to the group.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What are experiences and stimuli 
  • How experiences are invaluable for being creative
  • How stimuli can help to spark innovation

Reflection questions

  • What are experiences? 
  • What role do experiences play in the creative process?
  • What are stimuli? Can you give some examples?
  • Why are stimuli also essential in the creative process? 
  • Can you give any examples of how you have used these in your work or life?

What you need to know

Experiences and stimuli

It is near impossible to be creative in a vacuum. When we think back to some of the earliest steps of Creativity, which focused on using imagination, that imagination came from the combining of ideas and events that had happened in real life. 

There are no truly unique ideas in the world – they are all about combining concepts and components of other ideas or things that exist. So, to have more raw material to innovate, we should seek varied:

  • Experiences: These are things that we have happened to us or which we have observed, which leave an impression that we remember. 
  • Stimuli: These are things which spark activity or energy in someone, and which act as a spur or an incentive.

The power of experiences

Our experiences give us the limits of what we can imagine. That might seem strange, because imagination is about going beyond what currently exists. However, the reality is that most of what we imagine is about taking something that already exists and changing the:

  • Goal to be achieved
  • People involved
  • Place or context
  • Scale
  • Speed or timeframe

For instance, although it has had a tremendous effect, the internet is the development of lots of communication technologies that have built upon each other. Of course, there are new inventions too, like fibre optic cable but even the ideas behind these come from previously existing technologies – like the way that lighthouses use pulses of light to communicate to ships combined with sending signals down a copper wire. 

The broader our experiences, the more raw material we have to draw on to create new ideas. It also means that we need to be open to drawing across that full range of experiences. Too often, as we explored in Step 6 and Step 7, we don’t see how experiences across our working and home lives can support creativity. Making these connections is critical.


Using stimuli

If experiences are the raw material for innovation, stimuli are those things that spark our motivation to do something with that raw material. 

A stimulus might be seeing a new technology, art or performance, or an exciting article in a magazine or newspaper. Each of these things can spark engagement in our minds, and help to encourage us to join together different experiences to make something new.

Individuals who excel at creativity seek out a range of stimuli and look to go out of their comfort zone. They are not content to simply do the same thing every weekend, or to read only the same content. Instead, they look to try something new, and are open-minded about whether they will enjoy it or what they think they will get out of it. 

Together, experiences and stimuli will lead to new innovations and ideas, when coupled with some of the tools that have already been explored in Creativity.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

Education offers us the chance to broaden our experiences, as well as expand our knowledge and skills. As part of a learning community we can take advantage of the different experiences on offer to spark ideas when innovating and studying. Seeking out variety helps us learn and use these experiences to improve our work.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace we may generate ideas ourselves, inspired by our experiences or stimuli, or we may want to understand the starting point and stimulus of a project we are involved in. Employers may offer opportunities for you to seek out new experiences and training so you can continue to develop in your role.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In our wider lives it’s important to seek out varied experiences because we can discover new interests, meet new people and develop new ideas. These experiences can motivate us to create and innovate, and expand our imagination.

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!

  • Challenge yourself to explore a new place or take a different route home.
  • Challenge yourself to try out a new activity or listen to new music. Does it spark your imagination?
  • Ask someone to recommend an article they have read, or select something from a topic you wouldn’t usually read. What ideas does this stimulate? Can you discuss it together afterwards?
  • Take something that already exists, like an invention, recipe or story and change one or more of the following: Goal to be achieved, people involved, place or context, scale, speed or time-frame.

Build this step

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Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should first ensure that learners are clear on what we mean by the core definitions of experiences and stimuli.
  • This can be expanded by asking learners to think about why each of them play a very different but essential role in the creative process.
  • The conversation can be expanded to learners thinking of ideas that they have had, or innovations they had seen. They should identify what experiences and stimuli they think led to those innovations. These will be guesses in most cases, but helpful for consolidating the ideas.
  • The teacher can then set learners a challenge to stretch themselves by seeking out a new experience that could support them to be more innovative. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to being reinforced across school life, because it is often attuned to the values of a school or college. Learners can be encouraged to think about building their experiences and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, as a way of developing their thinking and ideas.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a quick reflection:

  • Learners can be asked to define what is meant by experiences and what is meant by stimuli, and to explain why both are important.
  • They should then be asked to share examples of when they have used both to support themselves to be creative. This can be delivered as a presentation, a conversation, or a written piece.

Build this step

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Build it at work:

This step is relevant to everyone who is regularly involved in generating ideas. To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain the concept of experiences and stimuli and describe their function in the creative process.
  • Model the effect experiences and stimuli have on a creative process. To achieve this, a manager might talk about ideas that they have been involved with, and unpack the experiences and stimuli that led to that idea being developed. 
  • Task an individual to mind map the ideas they have for developing their experiences. This might include the individual thinking about new opportunities at work to gain experience – such as taking on a secondment or volunteering opportunity.
  • Reflect with the individual on what are the sources of stimuli in their lives which can support them to be more innovative.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues:  Whenever there is an opportunity to generate new ideas.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we are trying to come up with new ideas to support customers or clients. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a discussion with the individual. During the discussion a manager might check the individual recognises how stimuli and their experiences support the creative process. This should include the individual unpacking some examples of where their ideas have come from.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Tasking an individual to complete a written application, as part of the selection process, which asks an individual to explain how an individual can innovate. Here we can check an individual understands the role of experience and stimulus in the creative process. 
  • These points could alternatively be covered in discussion.

Build this step

Advice for


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.

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Advice for

Parents & Carers

At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including:

  • Talking with your child about the essential skills, what they are and how they are useful in all
    aspects of life, whether at school, home or in the workplace
  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own work or wider life
  • Helping your child to identify where they already build their skills at school, at home or
    through other activities and clubs
  • Praising your child when they show they are using the skills well, and helping them to feel a
    sense of achievement
  • Encouraging them to recognise and talk confidently about their skill strengths with others, and
    supporting them to develop their skills further

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