Why everyone should ‘Skill it forward’

I’m a huge fan of General Assembly — the business, which started in 2011 is now a pioneer in education and career transformation — it specialises in today’s most in-demand tech and creative skills. Last week, it began publicising a great initiative that they are conducting in partnership with co-working space Alley, language school startup FluentCity and online magazine HerCampus called Skill It Forward.

The premise is simple: people sign up to pledge a number of hours to teach people in their lives something new. You might choose a friend, a family member or perhaps a colleague who has come to you for support — the project overall aims to hit 300,000 hours in gifted time to help others around us learn more.

I became drawn to this idea within the context of work: highly collaborative businesses prize themselves on the ability to skill it forward regularly, far outside of direct report/line management relationships. I’d argue that ‘skilling it forward’ is becoming increasingly necessary: if you’re in digital like I am, successive phases of digital disruption have become the norm. As a result, the challenge within businesses is to identify new capabilities that are relevant to their clients’ needs, disseminate those skills to the right people and ensure that they are embedded and applied as soon as possible.

What’s more this doesn’t need to be the standard ‘top down’ approach seen in training programmes. Applying this principle to the workplace could unlock some amazing opportunities, especially within agencies: from the creative who has been working on developing apps in her spare time showing her colleagues how she did it, to the intern that is fascinated with AI sharing exciting and unusual use cases that he has seen as a result of going to conferences on the topic. Creating an 360 degree learning environment, in which junior and senior people are both teaching each other has the potential to leave everyone with the functional benefit of ‘hard’ skill acquisition, together with the emotional benefit of feeling confident that they have more to offer than they might otherwise have thought.

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