Dr Phil Rutherford
About Capability Based Training
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What is Capability-Based Training? 

First up, what is Capablity?

Capability is a term used to describe a future ability. Future, in this sense, might be half an hour's time or a week away. Whatever it is, it is a time, place and environment quite often far different to where the individual's or team's (yes, teams can possess capability too) skills and knowledge are assessed.

In other words, it is the possession of skills and knowledge that are not just relevant to the here and now but also to the future, and the possession of such capability means being able to apply them when they are required - in the future.

This differs from the commonly accepted definitions of competence which generally describe skills and knowledge that are relevant to the workplace. The problem is, nobody really defines which workplace. More importantly, description of such competence (captured in competency standards) reflects performance that (even if they are described correctly) are based on what others have done, in the past, in different contexts, situations and environments. In other words, they rarely - if ever - describe what a trainee or student must do, in their context or environment, in the future. And if they're described incorrectly, that is the people writing them haven't bothered doing a proper analysis of the functions they're supposedly describing, then they are nothing more than guesswork. And believe me, in many countries (including my own) there are far too many of these.

In a Capability-Based system competence is not the possession of a set of skills and knowledge as determined in any competency or performance standards. Nor is it the ability to apply what one has been taught during a particular training program or course of education. It is the emergent and evolutionary ability to adapt one's skills and knowledge, no matter where or how they were learned, to meet new and ever-changing situations in environments that may be stable and controlled, or chaotic and uncontrolled, or just complex.

Moreoever, capability is the ability to scrutinize these skills and knowledge to identify what one needs at any given point in time, to decide what skills and knowledge are important, what are missing, and bring into play those that have been learned in other contexts, situations and eivornments in order to fill the gaps.

In this regard capability is evolutionary and self organising. It is the emergent and increasing ability of an individual or team to adapt current competence (skills and knowledge in context) to overcome complex and asymmetric situations, contexts and environments.

In a Capability-Based Training system trainers and mentors don't teach: They 'seed' that gap between what a person or team knows and can do, and what they need to know and do in order to learn what they need to know and do at some as yet unidentified point in the future.

Does this describe the approach you take to the training that your people and organisation receive? If not then maybe it is time to take a hard look at some of the definitions that your training system has been working under.

Copyright P D Rutherford 2009. All rights reserved.