What is a supercompetence?

04 Sep

I remember as a kid we got taught something boring and entirely unimaginative under the guise of personal development. They called it transferable skills; I thought it sounded like wearing an uncomfortable uniform.

In English you learn how to write. It is very important you pay attention in class, because when you grow up, you will have to write many many things. It will be a “transferable skill”.

That made me cringe. Not only because of the clone-CV overtones but also because I envisioned a far prettier rainbow lurking behind all this meaningless foliage.

The Pixar culture seems to have caught a glimpse of this rainbow:

The skills we develop are skills we need everywhere in the organization,” Nelson said. “Why teach drawing to accountants? Because drawing class doesn’t just teach people to draw. It teaches them to be more observant. There’s no company on earth that wouldn’t benefit from having people become more observant. {Source linked in footnote]

It has always intriuged me to learn something entirely unexpectedly as a side-effect of learning something else. I think the most valuable experiences are those that ‘discover’ skills that are difficult to teach, and/or measure: the kind that would earn someone the accolade of “a very practical, useful sort-of-person to have around”. 😉

Apparently in Danish¹ they have a word for this, that is roughly translated “supercompetence”. But in English it sounds too straightforward a word to describe so mysteriously enticing a concept… so my challenge is to discover something better… “Serendipitous experiential learning” might cover it, but that’s a bit of a highfalutin’ mouthful.

Surely someone out there knows a better English word for it? Maybe one that could do with the dust blown off.

Suggestions very welcome 🙂

¹ Thanks to Christoffer Hallas for sharing 🙂


Posted by on Thursday, September 4, 2008 in philosophy


Tags: , ,

3 responses to “What is a supercompetence?

  1. Ev

    Monday, September 15, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Won’t comment on the finding a English word for it thingy not good in those things (like so many things haha). But how are you dearie? Haven’t said hello or anything in ages…but we finally have broadband here in Northton so will try to keep up better…do you have facebook?

  2. rach

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I can hardly comment, given its taken me over a week to get your comment… but glad to hear you got your broadband sorted 🙂 I’m sure that will be a great asset to your communication channels!

    How are you all settling down? I’m sure everyone is lovely to you, but it can be quite isolated (shops, etc!) too… please do keep in touch. I keep meaning to be better at that – maybe I should even try out the old pencil+paper method 😛 for a relaxing novelty.

    I’m good too, thanks 😉 Off to Sarah’s allotment tonight, all being well. There was a baking sale at work today, so I got a collection for us to eat tonight.

    (Facebook!? Urm, no… I couldn’t succumb, especially after: No, I haven’t shot myself in the foot, honest! 🙂 Truthfully, I just don’t have the online-time to keep up with it.)

  3. Ev

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:48 am

    LOL, was wondering why my comment wasn’t posted in such a long time…was getting worried, but now it is ages ago since I last commented. No, I definitely have not forgotten about you! How are you and everything? I suppose I should just email rather than have everyone read this eh?

    Isolated indeed, but the people are lovely as you say and Amelia loves the sheep, and cows (and chickens wherever they are…?). Going to Texas abw end of the year can hardly wait…just the traveling bit is well, very daunting. These roads are awful here and the ferries yikes, I just don’t do good on ferries (well, if they are bumpy). Ah well, my novel is getting long. Best be off and tend to the wee ones!

    Ev xx


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