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  • Gina Jeneroux, Future Work & Skills Strategist


Updated: Aug 5, 2023


A colorful fish soars through the air, with a jet pack on its back. A spray of water shoots behind the fish.   A grove of trees is in the background.   <image generated by G. Jeneroux using MidJourney and Photoshop (Beta)>

I was recently reminded of a quote that’s widely attributed to Albert Einstein (although it’s unlikely Einstein ever said it):

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

There’s a lot to unpack here!

The first thing that comes to mind for me is the power of skills to level the playing field. Why penalize the fish for not being able to climb a tree, when you could help him soar with a jet pack?

However, before we look at what a Skills Jet Pack™ could offer, let’s take a moment to touch on a few other considerations raised by the quote:

  • self-confidence

  • fair assessments

  • embracing diversity


Of course, our judgment shouldn’t have any impact on the fish’s belief in himself. According to experts like Luciana Paulise, self-confidence is critical to personal and professional success. It enables each of us to be confident in our own abilities, treat ourselves with kindness, and foster stronger mental well-being. It also enables us to seize opportunities, and be open to continually building skills to prepare for the future.


There’s a big difference between ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’ assessments.

A cartoon of an older, female professor sitting at a desk, speaking to a group of animals (including an elephant, a rabbit, a lizard, a wombat, and a fish in a fishbowl).   In the background is a large tree.  The professor says, 'For a fair selection, everybody has to take the same exam: Please climb that tree."  <IMAGE BY G. JENEROUX  |  GENERATED WITH MIDJOURNEY, PHOTOSHOP (BETA) & POWERPOINT. BASED ON THE CARTOON BY H. TRAXLER & B. LINTON (OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM. THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 2000).>

When it comes to skill assessments, the goal is to reliably determine which skills a person has, to what degree, and whether they can effectively apply those skills to achieve the required results.

Linda Suskie, a leader in assessment for higher education, has a great way of describing what makes assessment so fascinating – and so challenging: “The answers aren't there in black and white; we have, instead, a puzzle. We gather clues here and there, and from them try to infer an answer”.

ChatGPT and other types of generative AI are – rightly! – turning assessment on its head. Many HR and business leaders, and learning professionals, are worried that tests of knowledge will be rendered useless.

Artificial Intelligence is creating opportunities to eliminate arbitrary testing standards that may not be relevant or fair, and opening the door to more objective assessments focused on outcomes – no matter how someone got there – and the critical thinking and understanding of risk that went into demonstrating the skill.

This shift is an important step toward more future-focused, holistic and inclusive assessments, which could also enable stronger predictions of future performance.


To me, the fish represents an individual with skills and experiences that are different from what is traditionally valued. (Outliers unite!) There’s strength in diversity. Studies from McKinsey, Deloitte and others found that teams of people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, skills and ways of thinking are more productive, collaborative and effective – including being more likely to solve problems, more innovative, and better able to drive business results. It’s important to celebrate the fish's inherent abilities and provide an environment in which he can thrive based on his strengths, rather than trying to fit him into the mold of a tree climber. This inclusive approach will enable the team to benefit from his natural talents, such as swimming or problem-solving underwater, and also target opportunities for further growth and development.

With these caveats in place… now, onto skills!


The landscape is changing so rapidly, and it’s already clear that the skills of tomorrow will be different from those we rely on today. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that 40% of the skills in every job will change by 2025.

New skills will be required to tackle problems in new ways – including problems we’ve never seen before. It may not be enough to be a brilliant swimmer and navigate the oceans with grace and speed. In the future, the fish may need to scale the tree.

Skill development can level the playing field and create paths to success for everyone. That’s where the jet pack comes in!

How can a Skills Jet Pack™ help individuals soar to new heights?

Although the design may be unique to each person, these four components will be key for everyone:

Image in the style of a blueprint:  A jet pack on the left labelled 'THE SKILLS JET PACK(TM)'  A callout box on the right, where the jet pack has been deconstructed into 3 parts.  The first component has 2 labels:  - THE FUEL (with an arrow pointing to the fuel tank) - THE CONTROLS (with an arrow pointing to the hand controls)  The second component has one label: - THE JETS (pointing to the exhaust ports)  The third component has one label: - THE CATALYST (pointing to the unit that converts hydrogen peroxide to steam and oxygen (thrust))   <Image generated by G. Jeneroux using MidJourney, Photoshop (Beta) and PowerPoint>


Do you remember James Bond’s jet pack? It used a catalyst (like silver) to convert hydrogen peroxide to steam and oxygen to provide thrust.

In a Skills Jet Pack™, the catalyst is the ability of leaders and HR teams to prioritize the most critical skills for each type of work. This helps to convert learning effort and skill development into impact.


Personalized development plans fuel the engine by pinpointing the best way for each of us to address our unique strengths and gaps. This includes

  • skill goals

  • targeted learning activities and experiences

  • opportunities to actively apply new skills

  • milestone completion dates

In recent years, great advances have been made in AI-fueled skills assessment (and reassessment), which enable tailored development plans and learning experiences, based on the skills an individual has and those they need. AI assessments bring us one step closer to true personalization at scale.


This is where the real power lies! UPskilling, REskilling and PREskilling™ are dynamic ways to build strengths and address gaps. All three propel individuals forward by helping them learn and apply new skills, engage in key experiences, and foster connections:

TABLE: WAYS TO BUILD SKILLS  <2 columns ('Focus' + 'Examples'). 3 rows ('Learning and applying skills' + 'Engaging in experiences' + 'Fostering connections'>  Learning & applying skills. Examples: - Independent study - Robust certification programs (e.g., badges, certificates, diplomas and degrees) - Apprenticeships - Boot camps  Engaging in experiences. Examples: - Gigs - Rotation programs - Stretch assignments  Fostering connections. Examples: - Networking - Peer-to-peer communities - Mentorships

UPskilling, REskilling and PREskilling™ are closely related, but they’re not the same:

SKILLS SNAPSHOT: PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE THROUGH SKILLS  ‘Skills’ encompass the knowledge, competencies, and abilities to perform tasks. Skills are developed through study and practice, and hands-on life and work experiences.  UPskilling, REskilling and PREskilling™ are all ways to build key skills, and each has its place in developing a dynamic workforce that's ready for today and tomorrow:  • UPSKILLING  enhances existing skills and builds targeted new ones to help people stay current in their existing job or field.  What does it look like?  Examples: A customer service representative gaining proficiency in chatbot management; or a program manager learning new software or techniques to work more efficiently or effectively  • RESKILLING  enables individuals to acquire entirely new skills to equip them to transition into a different job or field. It opens new work and career opportunities, and it is especially important when roles are becoming obsolete.  What does it look like? Example: Equipping a manufacturing worker to become a software developer  PRESKILLING™  equips individuals to build skills – starting now – that will be critical in the future. It helps individuals be nimble, stay ahead of the curve, and prepare for upcoming industry shifts.   What does it look like?  Examples: Building proficiency in emerging technologies like AI and Blockchain; critical thinking and problem solving; and sustainability, conservation and renewable energy


An effective skill-building program relies on effective measurement, to assess progress and continually refine and improve the approach.

Here are some key benefits:

  • gauge progress to understand how far each person has come and how much they still need to accomplish

  • boost motivation by highlighting tangible improvements

  • course correct to ensure everyone keeps moving forward, and they aren’t stagnating (or even regressing)

  • personalize learning to continually align skill-building efforts with individual strengths, gaps and preferences

  • create feedback loops to foster continuous improvement and growth

  • drive efficiency by embracing the practices that yield the best results

  • build confidence by reinforcing progress and accomplishments along the way

The process of measuring and refining helps you take stock, celebrate successes, adjust where required, and feel confident that skill-building efforts are moving in the right direction.


A Skills Jet Pack™ offers a fresh way to target critical skills and accelerate development through adaptation, assessment, learning and application.

To survive and thrive in the future, we will all need to build new skills – continually – and, like the fish, we also need to remember to embrace our unique strengths, interests, and diverse definitions of success along the way.

How will you use your Skills Jet Pack™ to soar into the future?


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