Regarding Capabilities

As a young man, I used to say, “What I lack in experience, I make up for in ability.” It was a cute way to disarm older people and get them to hire me. But, fundamentally, I believed it. And generally, it was true. Today, as a middle-aged man, I find experience to be of increasing value to my presentation of qualifications. Perhaps this is because I now have some? Or, perhaps, the possibility of my life coming to an end causes me to lower my capabilities, and thus elevate the value I place on experience? As I reflect on this, I think the circumstances dictate what is required.

Capabilities are the combination of resources, processes and priorities.

When you’re young you often lack tangible resources but you have more time, unique processes and strong priorities. As we age, with some success, our tangible resources increase but our remaining time depreciates. Our processes usually improve, but become more normalized. For some, priorities begin to shift.

It’s important to be conscious of your limitations. I heard Todd Combs say in a recent podcast that Warren Buffett’s superpower is knowing the edge of his competency. He said it in passing. But think about that in depth. Knowledge of your own limitations can prevent you from entering situations that produce loss. You can stay within your sweet spot and win consistently. If competency is stretched to capabilities, then we can deduce a formula for self-control.

Resources are among the first but easiest of requirements to define. The tangible resources can be clearly accounted for. But what of the human resources? The innate talent already developed? How can it be measured? Or compared? What of the rate of change of the talents being developed? How does this impact the intangible resources available to the person? To an organization of many people?

Processes and procedures can be written down. Unusual processes and procedures can be quantified and compared. People can be systematically fit together. Cultures form around the documentation and values become virtues, habits and norms fill in the gaps and people become a group.

Priorities however require choice. Time is limited and some actions will be left undone. What will those be? How will priorities be elevated? What is your purpose? Is that shared? Are your teammates unified in the way they prioritize?

Together your capabilities define the limitations of your abilities. Experience can bolster talent, intuition, and tangible processes and capital resources. But, are these priority or is there more?

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