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
Identifying smart people is a skill. Managing
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.”