Having metaskills will make you happy

Newstalk Review

The best way to judge whether we like a book is the number of notes we make. Metaskills is the record holder with 52 pages of notes. It is a cracker. By the author of another favourite of Bookbuzz “ZAG”.

What skills do you need for the future?

We moved from lizard brains, to monkey brains, to human brain and now we are moving to the 4th brain, which is Google, the cloud, Wikipedia, the Technium. A shared artificial brain. We are linking biology with machines, and machines with humans. We are moving from the industrial age into the robotic age.


We are in an age where everything can be copied. The only thing that cannot be copied is originality. We are on the cross roads of destruction and creativity. The problem is that we are still applying industrial age thinking to a robotic age world. For example, it is pointless to compete with machines. You need to focus on where you can win, which is originality and creativity.


Gross National Product as a case in point. Are we an economy or a society? As in ‘The second machine age (https://www.bookbuzz.biz/future-second-half-chessboard/), there is a plea for Gross National Happiness or Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. And what makes people happy? Meaningful work! Purpose! Passion! The joyful fulfillment of one’s potential. Which was beaten out of us in the industrial age.


We are going back to the Renaissance man or women. Going back to the universal, holistic human being. Going back to true mastery. Going back to combining knowing and doing. Recombining our hands with our brains. Our hands allowed us to evolve, but in the industrial age and the following education system we cut the ties between the two. With education putting too much emphasis on the brain and not enough on the hands. Chris Anderson in “Makers” would agree.

Our education system is wrong

Many of our policymakers believe if we just double down on testing standards and push harder on STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—we’ll revive the economy and compete better with countries that are taking our jobs. This is not a strategic direction for any developed country. The world doesn’t want human robots. It wants creative people with exceptional imagination and vision—and standardized testing won’t get us there.

Streamlined education produces the type of graduates who excel in measurable areas of intelligence such as memorization, math, logic, and language. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of hard-to-measure areas such as creativity, interpersonal abilities, emotional maturity, and resilience, which have been de-prioritized in the interests of efficiency. As researchers are quick to point out, it’s precisely these hard-to-measure areas of intelligence that make for great leaders and successful human

Be original

Originality is the key. Therefore the sills we need in the robotic age are:

  1. Feeling
  2. Seeing
  3. Dreaming
  4. Making
  5. Leaning

Five key skills. None of these skills have anything to do with computing.


The interesting question is why evolution has not pushed us to start thinking like computers? It is possible. Savants can do it. Which means science will find a way to make that available to everyone.

I feel, therefore I am (Aristotle)

Feeling is important. The more evolved the species, the more emotions become important. Because it allows us to “feel” our way through situations that are too complex to think through. Our feelings are central to our learning, our intuition, and our empathy. They allow us to make sense of rich data sets that our rational brains are not equipped to comprehend. Emotion is not a substitute for reason, but a partner to it. If our rational brains were deprived of emotion, even the most banal decisions would become.


Why would emotion be so important? Because it allows us to “feel” our way through situations that are too complex to think through. Our feelings are central to our learning, our intuition, and our empathy. They allow us to make sense of rich data sets that our rational brains are not equipped to comprehend. Emotion is not a substitute for reason, but a partner to it. If our rational brains were deprived of emotion, even the most banal decisions would become impossible. Feeling is a prerequisite for the process of innovation. It feeds learning, fuels intuition, fosters empathy, and powers creativity.

He goes on:

–       Thinking without thinking

–       Conscious brain (easy problems) versus emotional brain (complex problems)

–       Feeling your way through

–       Reflection in action (doing)

–       Empathy (essential when you share with 7 billion people)

–       Psychopaths (when the left brain goes wrong)

The brain

As Bookbuzz we have done a lot of work with executives on their decision-making. Our biases, delusions, Eastern philosophy versus Western philosophy, our intellect, integration of mind, body and environment, our talents and the way we handle information. We receive 11 millions bits per second, our consciousness can only deal with 16 bits per second and can only hold four items (thoughts or sensations). To fully understand a human being you need 40 bits per second. You only have capacity for 16.

It is the plight of our consciousness.


Which is why we invented focus and attention. That is why “The Shallows” is such a scary book. Your are what you think. So therefore you are what you focus on. The difference between life instinct and true existence. With experience as the starting point and purpose as the filter. Living a rich life. Which brings us back to the Renaissance.


Arts and science as two sides of the same coin. With terms such as intuition, beauty, drawing, harmony, memorability, surprise, rightness, elegance, aesthetics and design. It is not business, it is personal.

The business rationale for feeling

  • The way a customer “feels” about a product or company is, by definition, its brand. A brand is akin to a commercial reputation. And while it’s built by the company, it’s defined by the feelings of customers.
  • Design accounts for 80% of the purchase decision.
  • 80/80 rule. 80% of economy is service, 80% report bad service
  • People pay for beauty
  • Feeling is branding
  • 30% of companies are intangible assets
  • Empathy needs to be at heart of technology
  • Empathy sells


Seeing and thinking are related. Because we only have 16 bits per second available, everything we see is filtered. You see what you belief. You need to override that. You need to slow down, stop going for the one answer, look at the whole. Forget either or, go for and and open. Forget straight-line thinking. Start drawing what you see. Start reframing what you see.

Complex problems

With complex problems and systems, things are not what they seem. Cause and effect are confused. There are latency problems, which is the mother of all system traps. That causes conflicts in the brain. Logic looks for short term, emotion looks for long term. Solving wicked problems is about seeing the big, long picture.


One of the key lessons is that purpose is the overriding influence on system behaviour, which is straight from “The connected company”. In a complex adaptive system, purpose sets direction, sets rules for behaviour. Provides feedback about performance and addresses problems as they come up. Culture eats systems? Adaptive might be the operative word. And purpose is branding. Purpose is the drive for happy staff. Purpose is how you connect to your customers.


Imagination is closely linked to dream state. Disassociated patterns in the brain are similar to what happens in REM sleep. The word for dreaming in French is rever, to rave, to slip into madness…..

Innovation needs you to move from the known into the unknown and you need to practice dreaming:

–       What could be

–       Attributes of success or wouldn’t it be great if……..

–       Abduction (the non logic of what could be)

–       Wonderment (I wonder, I wish, what if)

–       Be a contrarian (Steve Jobs was one)

–       Be an entrepreneur (an entrepreneur is someone who dives into an empty swimming pool and invents water on the way down)

Flavours of time

The ancient Greeks understood that time came in two flavors: objective time, called chronos; and subjective time, called kairos. If you are in kairos you are in the right frame of mind.. When ideas flow, the music of chance plays faster.

You can do it

You can learn this. Here are ten strategies that can trigger new ideas.

  • Think in metaphors
  • Think in pictures
  • Start from a different place
  • Arrange blind dates
  • Poach from other domains
  • Find the paradox
  • Give it the third degree
  • Be alert for accidents (serendipity)
  • Write things down
  • Dream together
  • Swarm


What Leonardo DaVinci understood is that imagination without experience is weak. Originality without craft, to a Renaissance artisan, would have seemed like marriage without sex—lofty but Platonic. Mastery by Robert Green, talks about the importance of an apprenticeship as starting point for reflection-in-action was “knowing-in-action,” a dynamic way of knowing that stands in stark contrast to the kind of static knowledge we’re taught in school.

Reflection in action

Reflection-in-action goes a long way towards describing what we mean when we speak of a practioner’s artistry. “Do not fear mistakes—there are none.” Every step or misstep is provisional or correctable, a mini-lesson in the practice room of mastery. You go in not knowing so you can come out knowing.

It’s a capacity to combine thinking and doing in the middle of performing. It is the no process process, it is fail fast, it is the Do! By Kevin Kelly. It is making better decisions by making no good decisions. It is drawings, models, protypes to illuminate the problem. It is including.

It is design. It is beauty, simplicity, meaning, simplexity, harmony, longevity, depth and is as simple as it should be?


Ken Robinson has said it before. The economic crisis is chicken feed compared to the education crisis we are facing. Today’s school reward students for shallow learning and punished for deep learning. We are still sacrificing the kids to the gods of mass production. We need to move from educational factories to education gardens.

Practice X Passion = Skill

The same principles that make happy staff, makes happy students. Purpose and meaning. Passion. When you are focused on a mission, you mind becomes magnetized.

It makes them better students too. Emotion drives attention/ Passion X practice = skills attention drives learning. We need to create joy zones for students. We need to allow students to hack their own education.

Allow them to follow their bliss, their heart. Allow them to learn by doing on the subjects they like. With the fourth brain at their disposal. A quote form the book, “If you read two books on a subject written by knowledgeable people, you will know more than 95% of the people in the entire world know about that subject.”

Allow them to build a bridge of craft knowledge, domain knowledge and universal knowledge. Making them happy, holistic people. And happiness is contagious. When one person is contended, their friends have a 25% change of being contended themselves.

A happy world……….


6 Responses to Having metaskills will make you happy

  1. Steve August 3, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Thanks for the article and providing details on Linked In !

    Very thought provoking and an area I have many thoughts on

    (i) The singularity and human evolution is coming, watch the movie Transcendence
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2209764/ and contemplate how realistically close to some of the scenarios depicted we are !

    (ii) Are we not already offloading skills to the machines – when did you last write an article in cursive handwriting, so why teach it so diligently, do you remember all your friends and families phone numbers or have you off loaded this to the machine in your pocket !

    (iii) The sum of all human knowledge is accessible instantly in the palm of our hands via our smart phones and what do we do, watch cats dressed as sharks sitting on a vacuum cleaner ! http://goo.gl/bqdumG

    (iv) Are we really in information overload or as a species have we always been able to focus and filter – the library at Alexandria held more information that we could ever take in !

    (v) Why put the most creative and imaginative creatures in a call centre – surely that is a job for machines / robots !

    (vi) There is no way that we can compete with machines that never need to sleep – so why are we trying, we should excel at what we are better at !

    Thanks again for a great and stimulating article.


  2. Ron Immink August 5, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you. I am sure you are also a Ken Robinson fan?



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