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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 8, individuals will show that they can use mind mapping as a way of further developing their ideas.  

In earlier steps, individuals explored what it means to use imagination in different situations and how to generate ideas. They have also explored how creativity can be useful in the context of both work and their wider lives. These next steps are about using different techniques to develop and refine more sophisticated ideas – starting with mind mapping.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to create a mind map
  • How mind maps can be useful 
  • Other visual creative tools

Reflection questions

  • What is a creative tool? 
  • What is a mind map? 
  • When are they helpful?
  • When are mind maps less useful? 
  • What other visual creative tools have you come across?

What you need to know

How to create a mind map

As we develop our creativity, we want to be able to not only generate lots of ideas but to start to link them and expand our thinking. Creative tools are methods that support creativity. That is, they support you to use your imagination, generate something new, and work towards an outcome.

A mind map is a simple creative tool to explore a particular idea:

  • It starts with a single theme or question in the middle of the page, called the stimulus
  • Initial ideas then fan out from that stimulus 
  • Lines are drawn between the ideas and the stimulus to show they are linked
  • There might also be further ideas or connections that come from those ideas, and links between them can also be linked with arrows 

How mind maps can be helpful

Mind maps can be helpful for a few different reasons:

  • Speedy: They are quick to create and can be made using a pen and paper, or using mind-mapping software to organise thoughts. 
  • Adaptable: Unlike writing in sentences, they allow for more flexible thinking, because ideas can be arranged and linked in different ways, and it is easy to add more thoughts later.
  • Sharable: Because mind maps are widely used, they can be easily communicated, and it is possible to use a mind map as a visual to support an explanation to someone else (See Speaking Step 8 for how visual aids can help communication)
  • Support working together: Since mind maps are not linear, they are a great collaborative tool as several people working together can all write their ideas onto a single mind map. This can be a great way of getting a lot of different ideas quickly.

Other Visual Creative Tools

While mind maps are useful tools, they have their limitations because they only focus on one stimulus or idea and work out from there.

An alternative is concept maps which take different ideas and then look at connections between them. They might include labels on their linking lines to explain what the connection is between those ideas. 

At other times it will be useful to think about flow charts, for how ideas link together, or circular diagrams if there is a cycle. Again, these help to add clarity about what the connection is between different ideas (these are explored more in Problem Solving Step 8).

Finally, while mind maps are helpful for identifying and organising ideas, they are only a starting point – eventually, we are likely to want to create other things to help explore those ideas further, like diagrams, charts or fuller explanations.


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Why this skill step matters in education

Mind-mapping is a simple and effective method to generate and link ideas. This creative tool can be applied to any topic or subject area and can be done on paper or digitally to help organise thoughts and spark ideas. Recording ideas in a visual and adaptable format helps us to be flexible in our thinking and explore as many ideas as possible. Mind maps may be used when working in groups to facilitate collaborative thinking, as well as being easy to share with others.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Whether working individually or with others, it’s important to stretch ourselves and consider multiple options when we develop ideas. Mind maps are a universal tool which can also be used to record ideas in a meeting or conversation. A flow chart is a similar tool and may be used to map out a process, such as a project timeline or user/customer experience.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Using a mind map is a helpful tool to help develop ideas. We might use this method for planning a trip, strategic thinking in sports or designing home improvements. A visual mind map is also a handy way to share and come up with ideas with others and makes it easier to bounce ideas off each other and record them in one place.

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!

  • Take a question you have been set, or a topic you’d like to explore (‘How can we combat climate change?’), and create a mind map of your ideas. Use arrows to link related ideas or themes. You may want to use colours to separate the different strands or themes in response to your central question.
  • Take a list of notes or piece of writing you are working on and group the ideas into a mind map. Can you see any new connections and links? Does this prompt you to reorganise your thinking?
  • When working in a pair or group, suggest using a mind map to record ideas. Do your peers make connections you hadn’t previously considered? Take turns being the note-taker and evaluate how your thinking is affected by each role.

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can model how to create a mind map for a particular theme or stimulus – this can initially be something simple, perhaps related to subject knowledge. 
  • Learners can then have the opportunity to create a mind map for themselves, again linked to a different simple stimulus that relates to recently acquired knowledge. The focus is on how they arrange and expand their thinking about ideas by following through on creating a mind map. 
  • The teacher can then work with the class to create a mind map for exploring a creative question, to generate as many ideas an alternatives as possible. This is should be an expansive question like ‘how can we combat climate change?’ or ‘what would make the classroom a more pleasant place?’. 
  • The teacher can illustrate through this how effective use of mind mapping can help to capture and explore ideas collectively, as well as being a useful tool for individuals. 

Reinforcing it

This is a step which can be regularly reinforced in the classroom setting, and which supports learning. For instance, it can be used regularly as a way for learners to reflect on what they already know about a new subject, or as a tool for gathering notes as they listen. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an exercise. This could be through setting the learners a question or stimulus challenge and asking them to gather and organise their ideas through a mind map. The question or stimulus should be something accessible and familiar for learners so that the assessment is focused on the mind map, not the underlying knowledge.

This assessment could be extended to include an observed group task (linked to Teamwork skills) where the focus would be on whether learners can use a mind map as a tool to support effective group working.

Build this step

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who will generate new ideas or connect ideas.

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

  • Explain to an individual why mind maps can be useful.
  • Model how to use a mind map to capture information to show the benefits of the tool. A manager might do this during a team meeting or check-in to show how mind maps can be a useful tool to capture the ideas at the group level.
  • Task an individual to create a mind map for themselves. Here, an individual might learn how mind maps can be a useful tool to capture ideas at the individual level. 
  • Reflect with the individual about when they might use mind mapping to collect the ideas of a group and when they might use it to organise and expand their own ideas.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During conversations with team mates to capture ideas about things that may or may not already exist. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When working with a customer or client to capture ideas about things that may or may not already exist.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step can be assessed through observation and questioning. For instance:

  • To check an individual understands how to use this technique, a manager might ask them to create a mind map when lots of individual ideas are being discussed. The result can then be checked for accuracy. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual during an assessed exercise. This exercise could require task the individual to gather and organise their ideas through a mind map. 
  • The individual can then be observed for evidence of them using the technique.

Build this step

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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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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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