All of us, no matter where we come from or what we do, always think about how we can improve our skill set to become more creative and successful and this is hard because whenever we think of a skill to learn, it usually has a steep learning curve or it takes a lot of time to practice and master one such skill.

Most useful skills vs very useful skills

That’s where it is important to make the differentiation between “most” useful skills and “very” useful skills e.g. coding or programming could be termed as a very useful skill and the same could be said about online marketing, cooking, managing accounts etc but they are certainly not the most important skills to know.

The most useful skills are those which can be used:

  • very often (‘nearly every life situation’ is often enough)
  • regardless of context (whatever type of work, professional or private situation, culture etc.)

Roger Schank, a learning scientist and cognitive psychologist and author of “Teaching Minds”, researched to find that there are 12 most useful non-technical soft skills that can be learned by any human being to become more creative, agile and successful and he calls them as the cognitive processes.

The beauty of these 12 skills is that each of them would compliment your work whether you are a software developer, marketing manager or even a lawyer. You make use of each of these skills in nearly every single project and mastering these abilities will help you do your work more effectively and be perceived as more competent.

Here comes the full list with short description:


Ability to foresee possible consequences of actions.

Think of people who would upload their personal information on the web without realising the potential consequences. Prediction helps you make connections and that helps you identify business opportunities.


Building a model of a process or system in your mind.

This skill help map a complex system like company or industry and thanks to that you can identify problems, design solutions and communicate with others more effectively.


Learning from trials and errors.

The best way to learn is to try and find out what works and what doesn’t and the only way to find out is to try a lot of things and based on your hypothesis, biases and experiments, try to find out what is the best outcome of a situation. Instead of relying on dogma and theory, practice it.


Analysing a situation from many different perspectives instead of only one.

Have you ever tried taking a new road to work? It’s adventurous because you never know where it might but it offers you a whole new opportunity to travel differently. Evaluation helps you determine the value of a thing from many different perspectives so you are able to make decision through a bird’s eye view instead of through a very linear approach.


Identifying what is relevant and ignore the noise.

Its not easy to know what you want and what’s relevant for you but it’s important to look at things and ignore what doesn’t bother you and diagnosis is the process of finding causal explanations between facts.


Knowing what to do to achieve a certain goal and ability to find out what goals are achieved by certain plans.

Lets say you wanted to go on a vacation to Thailand. The only way to achieve this goal is through planning – to be able to know what to do in order to achieve a certain goal but also ability to find out what goals are satisfied by a specific plan.


Recognising the real cause behind the certain situation (or only correlation).

This is important because this helps you detect the cause behind the specific event based on the previous knowledge and by knowing the causation you are able to affect your environment and future in a positive way.


Making unbiased, objective judgements.

This is hard but this lets you make decisions based on objective and factual understanding of the situation instead of thinking through emotions which can cloud your judgement.


Improving your influence on other people by understanding their response and adjusting your actions.

This one’s easy thanks to social media now but this is one of the very important abilities and thanks to this skill you are able to understand how other people respond to your requests.


Managing people and working together toward common goal.

One of the greatest skills to lead a team and not even let them know that you are leading it, teamwork helps you fight for a common goal and mobilise people along the way to reach from where you are to where you need to be.


Making deals and resolving conflicts.

This skill will help you not just in sales but also in recruitment and management and generally with all affairs in life where you need to convince stakeholders for one thing or another.


Communicating your thoughts clearly.

Communication is the language of the world. Tony Robbins said “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”