top of page

Tools or Capabilities for Learning?

Consider the last time you were seeking some new professional learning opportunity. Chances are you were drawn to a webinar or course that offered new tools that you could apply in your work tomorrow.

You attend the session only to find that your new toolbox was filled with things (think hammer and nails, metaphorically) that you could use to build. Yet, ultimately you discover you are not sure what you are building, or to what end you would use the tools. So, the tools go back in the box.

This scenario unfolds perhaps because the “toolkit” way of professional learning in education, healthcare, or perhaps any sector, operates from a behavioral and mechanist view of being effective in our work. When we practice behaviors, we exercise an external skill, one that requires an add-on to how we have been operating.

What might be missing is the internal development of the person using the skills. The toolkit is often just not enough. Valuing the wholeness and essence of who people are and what they share, as well as understanding our own gifts, is radically human, and not found in a box. It is found in our shared humanity.

Consider this frame for how we might learn:

Tools + Knowledge of Self = Authentic, Interpersonal Capability Development

To identify these more specifically, here are some descriptions you might recognize:


- Active listening by using stems like, “What you are saying is…” or “What is important to you is…” to show you are present and listening

Knowledge of Self:

- Self-reflection and awareness by looking internally at one’s identities and how they impact the dynamics of human interactions; and neurologically, the wiring and rewiring of neural pathways

A proposal for us, as humans, in our work is to think beyond just the “what” and “how” in our learning because these frames are external and limit our potential to get better at our work.

Try out this as an outcome that brings forth both external and internal learning:

Authentic, Interpersonal Capability Development

Perhaps we need both the tools and capabilities, not either/or. When you think about the last time you interacted with a supervisor, a colleague or direct report and you knew that you could say anything that would support your growth and learning in your role, and that you could ask questions without fear that there would be retribution or hurt afterwards, then perhaps that is the result of the “toolbox” focus of learning AND the capability of learning showing up interdependently. These kinds of interactions help us all to develop our gifts and to be in the presence of people, bringing out the humanity and best in them.

Let’s take our tools and capabilities and apply them to our own deep awareness of who we are, professionally, personally, racially, ethnically, culturally, by gender identification, all of our intersecting identities, to create spaces and opportunities for all with inclusivity, equity and acknowledgement of the beauty of and in each individual.

51 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page