Is capability-building a fancy name for training? And if not, what does it mean?

Imagine you’ve been shipwrecked on a desert island. Hazily you squint at the tropical sun, run your fingers through the soft white sand, size up the ragged bunch of co-castaways, and decide you better do something if you’re going to survive. None of you have ever been in this situation before. None of you know what to do or feel able to do what has to be done. In short, you have a capability gap.

The wonders of modern technology mean your smartphone has somehow survived, and not only that, it has a 4G signal. What do you do?

  • A. Watch an instructional podcast on how to survive on a desert island?
  • B. Assess the resources and materials available to you, and where the opportunities and threats lie?
  • C. Organise everyone into teams, with different goals and responsibilities?
  • D. Email a recent winner of Survivor and ask them to join you?
  • E. Agree some groundrules and procedures everyone should follow?
  • F. Remind everyone of Lord of the Flies so they recognise the importance of a supportive culture?

The truth is that all of these could be valid actions. But no one of them is sufficient. And so it goes with capability-building.

Capability is simply the ability to do something. A power to perform a specified task. Individuals have capabilities. And so do organisations.

When organisations don’t have the power to perform a specified task as well as they want to, they have a capability gap. Often, their leaders turn to us to help them remove that gap. Often they ask us for a training workshop to remove that gap. And then, quite possibly, their hearts sink as we say ‘we’re happy to do a workshop, but if you really want to boost your performance, have you considered the other drivers of your capability in this area?’

This 6 drivers of capability building


 the brand learning wheel - capability building


It starts with clear objectives, purpose and strategy. Then there are 5 other elements which influence capability. And which you can influence to build capability. These are:

  • processes
  • skills
  • organisation
  • people
  • culture

Training (we prefer the term ‘learning’) helps upskill people, enables new processes, lets people understand their roles, what’s expected of them, how to lead and so on. But it’s not the only tool you should use to build capability. You need to do more to make sure your people and your company excel.

If you wanted to create a thriving community on the island, you wouldn’t just watch the instructional podcast and practice spearing fish. You’d at least find who’s best at building shelters and ask her to lead a construction task force. And remind people of the lessons from Lord of the Flies. Wouldn’t you?

To find out more about how to create behaviour change that will build these capabilities for the long-term, read here. If we’ve whet your appetite to work with us as a client or a member of the team, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.