The subject of lateral skills is one of my favourites. To better understand what lateral skills we must compare with vertical skills. Vertical skills are skills confined to certain areas or disciplines. Thus a vertical skill can be technical or procedural. Java programming or forklift driving are examples of vertical skills. Lateral skills span across or apply to any area or discipline. Lateral skills are generalized skills necessary for one to thrive in any area or discipline. This definition will come alive when you go through the lateral skills I shall be discussing today.
We all have 24 hours in a day yet some achieve a lot whilst others achieve little or none. How is that possible when we all have the same time in the day? The short answer is time management. Many people, business people even, manage their time poorly. Last night I watched the 2011 sci-fi movie In Time. This was my second time watching it and it felt so different this time. There are striking insights about time management in that movie that I had not realized before.
Anyways, every business person needs to master time management. No globally successful business person I know is reckless with their time. Time is money and it waits for no man. To master time management you need to learn how to effectively prioritize, delegate, organize, schedule, multitask, and project or forecast, amongst other things. We are broadly looking at areas like streamlining workflows, and making sure time is utilized productively. You have to consciously cultivate a lifestyle that is anchored on deliberate and structured time management.
The late Steve Jobs once said, ‘Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people. That takes people management. In business you have a wide variety of people you must handle. You have staff, you have customers, and you have shareholders (if applicable). That is not all; you have several other stakeholders e.g. suppliers, regulatory authorities, utilities, and more.
These are all people you have to engage with differently. You need to be emotionally intelligent enough to harmoniously handle all of them. You need to know when to be aggressive, soft, tough, firm, empathetic, and so on. Often the needful will not be stuff that is logical or procedural. At times you will have to think unconventionally to achieve your intended results.
Critical thinking entails a lot of focal areas you must learn. I once did an article on 2 critical thinking skills I use that you can use. Everyone in business must be a critical thinker, it is a must! Problem-solving, making analyses, and decision making all fall under critical thinking. Being creative, observant, and using logical reasoning are included here as well. Inferring and researching are also exercises in critical thinking. Other forms of reasoning that constitute critical thinking are deductive and inductive reasoning. Making predictions, recognizing patterns, and asking the right questions are all critical thinking. I do not understand how someone can expect to thrive in business without critical thinking skills. As you can see there is a lot to learn under critical thinking but it is an interesting study area.
Planning entails the accurate estimation of time, resources, and effort required to complete tasks. It is about being able to craft strategies necessary for setting goals to be accomplished. Planning is so vital in any venture that failing to plan is planning to fail. Strategic planning is a more focused type of planning. It is highly necessary for the field of business and entrepreneurship. No wonder why Business and Management Consultants often need exceptional strategic planning skills. Regardless, any field requires strategic planning, especially in this competitive and rapidly changing world.
Strategic planning entails knowing which goals to set and choosing the specific steps or actions needed to realize them. It also includes knowing who to assign responsibilities to and setting completion timeframes. It goes further to involve deciding on indicators and how progress will be measured. It is different from simply saying that you plan to realize more sales. Strategic planning breaks everything down right to the root of what each person should do. Every business person must have their strategic planning skills on point.
Lateral skills are not necessarily inherent in everyone. For some those skills will come naturally whereas for others they will need to be learnt. The good thing is lateral skills can be cultivated till they are mastered. So your goal as a business person is to orient yourself and become rooted in the lateral skills we just discussed. These lateral skills are sharpened the more you use them. The more you put them to use, the better you become at them.