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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 15, individuals will show that they can use coaching as a means of supporting others to be more creative. 

In Step 13 and Step 14, the focus has been on how to support others to be more creative. This included sharing a range of creative tools, and then by evaluating those tools to find the best one for the situation.

This final step of Creativity draws together all of the learning that has happened so far, and focuses on how to support creativity in others.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What is coaching
  • Why coaching supports creativity
  • How to coach on a particular project
  • How to coach to support idea generation
  • How to coach to support exploring ideas
  • How to coach to develop individual creativity more broadly

Reflection questions

  • What is coaching, and why is it relevant to creativity?
  • Why is questioning important for coaching?
  • How can you support structuring a project through coaching?
  • How can you coach someone to generate and then refine ideas?
  • How can you coach someone to become more confident in their creativity?
  • Have you had any experience of doing this?

What you need to know

What is coaching?

Coaching is about supporting another individual to achieve their potential. Sometimes this is about the coach providing a soundboard, asking questions and helping the coachee to work out the answer for themselves. Other times, it can be more directed by the coach.

In the context of supporting creativity, coaching is about helping individuals to improve their creative skills and to generate ideas and solutions more effectively.


Why is coaching important for creativity?

Throughout our exploration of creativity in these steps, it is clear that creativity is not a linear process, but that there are tools that can boost it.

Good coaching is about asking questions and posing challenges which can broaden out thinking and spark new connections and ideas.


Coaching on a particular project

Sometimes the focus of coaching will be on you helping another individual to make progress on a particular project. For you to be an effective coach, it is important to make sure that you and your coachee both have a clear understanding of the project at the outset:

  • What is the goal of the creative project?
  • What are the success criteria?
  • What is the timeline?
  • What are the constraints?
  • What will success feel like for you?

Coaching to generate ideas

With this understanding, you can ask some of the key questions as another person is developing their ideas.

  • Do you have the right environment and space to create ideas?
  • Have you taken away distractions? 
  • What are the most obvious ideas to you?
  • Have you done anything similar before?
  • Are there any surprising connections here?
  • Can you come up with ten other ways of solving this problem?
  • If you had no limitations on your time, how would you approach this challenge?
  • If you had anything you wanted to solve this problem, what would you do?
  • Which constraints are the most challenging to work around?

Coaching to refine ideas

Once your coachee has developed a lot of ideas, and has started to refine them, some of these questions can be helpful to guide their thinking:

  • How does this idea fit in with the brief?
  • What could make this idea better?
  • What would make this shorter / easier to use / more engaging / simpler to understand / more enjoyable?
  • How will you know if this is an idea that will work in practice?
  • How will other people react to this idea? 
  • Who are your most challenging stakeholders? What would they think of the idea?
  • Who is your most important stakeholder? What would they think of the idea?
  • Are there any perspectives you think you are missing?
  • What makes you think that this is the best idea that you can come up with?

Coaching to boost creativity more broadly

Finally, you might be looking to support other individuals to build their creativity more broadly. Some of these questions could help you to structure that support:

  • What have you been most inspired by in your life?
  • When do you come up with your most creative ideas?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • Which experiences have you drawn on most when you are creative?
  • What new experiences would you like to have?

Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

Teachers play a key role in helping us to achieve our potential by sharing knowledge and skills, and broadening our perspectives. However, we can also help our own personal development by supporting our peers and coaching them to improve ideas or reach solutions more effectively. By working with others to improve creativity, we can develop our own creative skill set and learn from their experiences.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Colleagues and managers can help individuals improve their creativity in different ways. It may be helpful to provide a soundboard for a new project or to coach a colleague to resolve a dilemma. A coach may ask questions and challenge others to consider new factors relating to a product, service or process. Line managers may use coaching to help others think creatively about their own personal development. A supportive environment with effective coaching, both formal and informal, can boost creativity more broadly in the workplace.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

We can use coaching in our everyday lives in a range of scenarios. We may provide informal coaching for friends and family by helping them generate ideas, being a soundboard as they solve problems or sharing new perspectives. For example, if we were to give advice about how they could renovate their home, we could ask questions or help them consider new factors so that they ultimately make a decision that they are happy with. Whether we give our opinion or share expertise, we can play a supportive role to help others achieve their potential.

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!

  • Provide support for someone on a particular project by asking key questions: What is the goal of the creative project? What are the success criteria? What is the timeline? What are the constraints? What will success feel like for you?
  • When someone shares an idea with you, ask some key questions to help them develop their ideas further.
  • If a peer approaches you and is finding it hard to be creative or solve a problem, support them to reflect on when they come up with their most creative ideas and the experiences they have drawn on to inspire them.

Build this step

Advice for


Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by ensuring that learners are all familiar with the concept of a coach. It is essential to be clear on the difference between how coaching is used in the world of sport, and coaching as commonly referred to elsewhere which is the process of helping someone to achieve their potential for themselves. 
  • Questioning is a key part of effective coaching for creativity – not telling someone what to do, but helping them to structure their thinking to get to conclusions that they are happy with for themselves.
  • Learners can generate ideas of questions that fit into the categories above: setting up a project; generating ideas; refining ideas; and building creativity. These should be compared and added to from the list above.
  • Learners can then put this into action, with one learner given a challenge to work on (for instance, to create a new sport) and another acting as a coach to use questions to support them, whilst never giving them the answer.
  • Following a reflection, the roles can be swapped so that both learners get the opportunity to coach and be coached. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in group creative tasks. One learner can be allocated the role of coach, and support others to structure the creative process, without contributing ideas or making decisions.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of a learner coaching another or others. The teacher should be looking for evidence that they can use carefully constructed questions to help encourage the individual being coached without becoming directive.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who helps others to generate high quality ideas.

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

  • Explain to an individual what good coaching for creativity looks like. Here a manager might make the fundamental point that coaching is about asking questions and posing challenges – not about providing the answer.
  • Show an individual a model which demonstrates the different ways they can use coaching to support others to be innovative. To achieve this, a manager might create an illustration with three nodes: coaching on a particular project; coaching to generate ideas; and coaching to refine ideas. Off each, the manager could sketch out some key questions which support the individual to coach for that effect.
  • Task an individual on an exercise to generate additional questions for each of the four applications.
  • Reflect with the individual about why coaching is important for creativity.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When coaching others innovate better.
  • Working with customers or clients: When supporting a customer to see new applications or value in your product or service, with a focus on coaching a customer to be creative. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a discussion and collecting feedback. For instance:

  • A manager might have a reflective conversation with an employee to check they can identify the three ways coaching might be used to support creativity.
  • Additionally, they might collect feedback from stakeholders who work with the individual to understand how regularly they use coaching to support others to innovate.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Asking for examples of when the individual has coached others through the creative process. 
  • Watching an individual perform during a role play which can be about them coaching an individual to develop their creativity. Here we might observe the individual to look for evidence that the individual can use coaching skills for this effect
  • To extend this further, we might have a follow up interview with the individual to check they can recognise the different ways coaching can be used to support others to innovate.

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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