Skill vs. Behavior
Updated 10/5/17   Source     Please


Bill Gates writes often about the importance of measurement when pursuing goals. Skills are easier to measure than behaviors. Behaviors can be hard to define, and often manifest in the things you don’t do.  Sometimes chase and reward the wrong traits. Google learned this when it eventually devalued SAT scores for job applicants, realizing it had little predictive signal of a hire’s subsequent career success.

A few other examples of the distinction stick out:

Gathering statistics is a skill. Finding facts is a behavior. The former is a set of numbers; the latter is a complete set of numbers calibrated with enough context to provide a model of how the world actually works.

Identifying smart people is a skillManaging smart people is a behavior. The latter requires sussing out what motivates people and dealing with difficult personalities.

Being good at your job is a skill. Working well with others is a behavior. The latter generally dictates the duration of the former.

Successfully managing money during calm times is a skill. Successfully managing money during a recession is a behavior. Recessions require all the skills of managing money during expansions, but with an added worry about career risk, whether your past success was due to luck, and whether good times will return.

Interpreting data is a skill. Understanding your tendency toward confirmation bias is a behavior. Charlie Munger on Charles Darwin: “He trained himself to consider any evidence tending to disconfirm any hypothesis of his, especially if he thought his hypothesis was a particularly good one.”