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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 2, individuals will show that they can bring what they imagine to life in different ways, including through role play or acting out their ideas, and through pictures or diagrams. 

In the previous step, individuals focused on how to say what they could imagine. This step builds on this by exploring other ways of communicating ideas to others.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to share what is imagined through acting it out
  • How to share what is imagined through drawing pictures or diagrams

Reflection questions

  • How can you share what you imagine through acting it out?
  • When can this be helpful? 
  • How can you share what you imagine through drawing pictures or diagrams?
  • What are the advantages of this?
  • Can you give examples of where you have done this?

What you need to know

Sharing imagination through acting it out

When we imagine something, it is in our heads. Imagining things in our heads can help think about new ideas or what we might want to do in the future. However, some of the things we imagine are useful to share with the world.

One method of doing this is through acting it out or by using role-play. Acting or role play is helpful when you are trying to share a conversation or behaviour with someone else and for them to join you in being part of an imaginary world.

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Examples: drama and role play

For example, all drama – whether in films, in theatres or on video clips – comes from imagination and then it is made real by being acted out to you. If this done well, it can be so convincing that you feel that you are part of the action and understand very clearly what is in someone’s imagination.

Another example is the use of role-play – when someone, or multiple people, play different roles. This can help build an understanding of what someone is thinking or for playing out different scenarios. For this reason, role play is often used in creative play and also in learning – so that you have to think about what someone else was thinking and feeling at a certain point. It can be good for building empathy and understanding how someone else is feeling and why they make certain decisions.

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Sharing imagination by creating art

Alongside talking about ideas or acting them out, the other big way that people share what they imagine is through pictures or diagrams.

Most artists use their imagination to create their works of art – they imagine a situation, or how they feel about it and bring that to life through their artwork. That might use materials like paint, pencil, metal, stone or many others. In every case, they have taken something that was in their mind and turned it into something physical to share what was in their imaginations. However, we don’t need to be brilliant artists to get across our ideas – sometimes a quick sketch can be enough.

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Sharing imagination by drawing diagrams

Alternatively, lots of things people imagine turn into diagrams. Diagrams are designed to be a way of getting crucial technical information to other people. They can be simple – for example, showing where in a room a picture should be put up, or more complicated like a set of architectural plans. Diagrams can also show instructions for other people to follow to build something or make something happen. Diagrams do not have to be perfect to be useful.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can show how role-play can be a useful way of bringing imagination to life by asking learners to imagine that they were two well-known figures, or acting out a familiar scenario like a shopkeeper and a demanding customer. Learners could explore what they learnt through having to act out this scenario – that might include empathy for the characters, and also ideas about how they would deal with that scenario if it happened. 
  • The teacher can show how acting can be a useful way of bringing imagination to life by asking learners to create a short sketch in response to a stimulus like “when the aliens landed”. Learners can explore how acting can help share the feelings and emotions that they imagine. 
  • Learners can then take on the challenge of sharing what they imagine through art using a stimulus if they need – for example, “When it wouldn’t stop raining”.
  • Finally, learners can create a diagram – for example, of how they would rearrange the classroom if they could, or an invention that would help do something in their day.

Reinforcing it

This skill step can be reinforced in other parts of learning. This can be done by encouraging learners to engage their imaginations during learning. They can then express what they imagine through the appropriate methods from above. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a series of structured activities. These can be based on the Teach It section above, using a sequence of different challenges that can be used to assess learners’ abilities to use the various methods of sharing what they imagine.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who will use their ideas to help others at work.

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

  • Discuss with an individual which approach to bringing imagination to life might be more useful in certain situations. Here, the discussion might consider the merits and drawbacks of both approaches.
  • Model, to a group, the process of bringing imagination to life through drawing. A manager might achieve this by sketching out a diagram which communicates how the group can respond to a brief. For example, a manager might sketch out a diagram to show the specifications of a new product the team are to produce.
  • Task an individual to take part in a group exercise to share what they imagine through roleplay. To support this, a manager might give an individual a stimulus to respond to such as ‘Operating a 4-day working week’.
  • Reflect with the individual on the barriers they face when sharing what they imagine through acting it out or drawing pictures or diagrams.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During conversations with team mates about things or situations that do not already exist.
  • Working with customers or clients: When using imagination to create new ideas for customer or client.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation. For instance:

  • Watching an individual as they engage in a task to create something that does not already exist. Here a manager might look for evidence of the individual can explain what is in their head using a diagram or role play.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual as they engage in a group exercise. This exercise might require the individual to use their imagination to respond to a situation and explain an approach using a diagram or role play.

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

There are many different ways to bring our imagination to life and share it with others: writing, drawing or performing. These creative tools can be used to support learning in academic and vocational subjects. We might choose to act something out to show our understanding, to practise a scenario or to entertain. We can also use art and pictures to express what we imagine. Diagrams are a useful tool for illustrating complex ideas or instructions and can support note-taking and revising.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Visual tools are used in a variety of jobs to help us bring our imagined ideas to life so that we can share these with others. When working in a diverse team or community, people may approach creative thinking differently and therefore the ability to use a range of methods to bring ideas to life will help you to engage a wider group. In the workplace we are surrounded by visual communication: signs, documents, infographics, charts and websites; we can use these as inspiration to support our own work in choosing the appropriate tools to bring our ideas to life.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Bringing our imagination to life helps us share ideas with friends and family or when getting to know people and building relationships. It can be an enjoyable way to discover new and shared interests. We might use this skill to share experiences or future plans with others so they can understand us more easily.

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!

  • Think of a conversation you have had recently where you had hoped for a different outcome or reaction. Re-enact the conversation with a peer, or     independently, taking into account both perspectives and how you might act differently to achieve the outcome you wanted.
  • Take a complex idea, technique or subject you are learning and choose to recreate it as a diagram, picture or demonstration. How has this helped you to understand the subject matter? How did you choose which tool to use to bring your imagination to life?
  • Sitting back-to-back with a partner, take turns describing an image or imagined situation. Without looking, your partner will draw what you describe. For     example, you could choose to describe a room layout you want to rearrange, an outfit or a meal you are planning to make.

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