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35 Examples of Ability

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An ability is the power to do things well. This includes knowledge, skill and talent that can be directed to achieve a result. The following are common types of ability.

Domain Knowledge

Knowledge that is specific to a domain such as an industry, profession or field. For example, a pilot who knows how to safely land a jet on one engine.

Tacit Knowledge

Skills that can only be obtained through direct experience such that they are difficult or impossible to learn from a book. For example, leadership or archery.

Situated Knowledge

Highly specific knowledge such as how to grow unusually large grapes on a particular hill with a unique terroir.

Fluid Intelligence

Accomplishing novel tasks in areas where you have little preexisting knowledge. For example, an intern at a bank who develops a model for valuing solar panel manufacturing firms that is accepted by senior analysts as useful.


The openness, curiosity and ability to acquire new knowledge such as a farmer who is able to apply organic farming techniques they learn from a neighbor.


Discovering knowledge, evaluating sources and conducting experiments. For example, an entrepreneur who develops reasonable estimates of a competitor's costs based on their public financial statements.


The ability to organize, model and assess information. For example, a business analyst who collects and documents requirements for a system project.

Rational Thought

The ability to develop arguments and ideas that reasonable peers would view as rational. For example, a student who gets high marks on essays due to their talent for developing an argument.

Decision Making

The ability to make reasonable decisions in a timely manner.

Problem Solving

Troubleshooting problems to find a solution. For example, an aircraft mechanic who quickly identifies the root cause of problems by leveraging their years of experience.

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to navigate social situations by reading and using emotion. For example, a customer service representative who recognizes that an angry customer is feeling stressed and works to help the customer as opposed to taking the customer's negative demeanor personally.


Mastery of your native language and proficiency in second languages.


Generating useful ideas that are non-obvious such as an architect who develops a new way to transport natural light into the interior of a building.


The ability to create things with your hands. For example, the ability to build prototypes of designs with wood to validate an idea.


Artistic talent such as a skilled painter.


The design of structures such as buildings and infrastructure.


Design is a broad term for the creation of original work products. This includes visual design, product design, user interface design, interior design, information design, engineering and software design.


The ability to make designs a reality. For example, a software developer who can write the code required to implement a software design.

Technical Skills

Know-how related to specific technologies at the user, administrator and developer level. For example, a salesperson who is good at using a sales force automation platform.

Design Thinking

The ability to apply design to areas that aren't traditionally viewed as design problems. For example, a manager who uses design to improve team productivity and culture.

Systems Thinking

The ability to think though the end-to-end impact of things to develop elegant solutions to complex problems. For example, a waste is food solution to an environmental issue.


Developing plans to achieve goals under competitive and constrained conditions. For example, a shoe company executive who develops a plan to allow customers to design their own customized shoes with an app.


Orchestrating resources to achieve a plan. For example, a farmer who is able to secure the machines, facilities and labor required to harvest a crop in a timely and efficient manner.


The ability to direct people and control resources. For example, a team manager who controls a budget and manages the commitments and performance of a team.


The interpretation and implementation of policy. For example, a chief information security officer who is able to realize a policy of proactively identifying vulnerabilities and applying preventative measures.


Getting people moving in the same direction to achieve goals such as a senior software developer who acts to unify the efforts of a development team.


The ability to communicate information verbally and visually.

Public Speaking

Communicating to a group such as a software engineer who is able to communicate the value of a software platform to developers at internal meetings and industry events.


The ability to make information entertaining and engaging with storytelling techniques.


The capacity to meet new people and maintain relationships to build professional and social connections.


Communicating to influence the actions and ideas of others. For example, a salesperson who is good at closing.


Negotiating favorable agreements such as a purchasing manager who is good at negotiating prices and terms with suppliers.

Cultural Capital

Cultural capital is the ability to influence in the context of a society and culture. For example, a film director who quickly earns the respect of film crews and actors due to their talent and personal presence.


Finding your own path to be productive in the face of uncertainty, distraction, competition, constraints and a lack of authority. For example, a project manager who is somehow able to deliver a project without much support from business units.

Time Management

Making efficient use of time.


There is a persistent and strange myth that the word ability implies an inborn talent that can't be acquired. This is not true as abilities can be developed and improved.
Overview: Ability
The power to do things well.
Related Concepts
Next: Types of Talent


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