Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

The lowercase, small letters are becoming easier to spell out, more recognised and more important.

Small p Photographers? Look at Instagram.

Small t Teachers? Follow a few smart Silicon Valley people on Twitter to see how they share knowledge and ideas

Small b Blogger? Focusing on very niche topics for a (usually) small audience

Small d Designer? No longer just about craft skills, design is used to create solutions to all kinds of problems – design thinking being a great example

And small t Technologists use tools like Carrd, Coda, Glitch, and a whole host of others where the Capital options are still available but you can choose to just jump in and quickly become lowercase if that’s the way you want to go.

How is this different to the existing ways of thinking?

The T-shape tends to focus on a handful of skills – one deep and a few shallower but still strong. Lowercase looks different, more like a pocket comb.

The ‘hyphen’ or ‘slash’ usually means you’re doing a number of things as occupations of within a portfolio, aka side hustling. Lowercase doesn’t mean you’re necessarily trying to generate revenue from a particular skill.

All this isn’t to say the Capitals will get eroded by the lowercase (although they might [3]). We’re less likely to see small s Surgeons.

The Lowercase may not even surface much. 

But here’s the thing. Like the sentences you’re reading right now, most of the words and nearly all the letters are lowercase. 

On their own the lowercase letters don’t mean much or serve a clear function, but added together something interesting happens. 

And whilst you may not get commended for your grammar, if you can package the lowercase skills in interesting ways you may not even need the capitals at all. 


[1] One of my favourite brand names is Chris Sacca’s venture fund Lowercase Capital. Perhaps a few people visited this article because they thought it was about them 😉

[2] Maybe you were even an EXECUTIVE or a BANKER. Pure capital, living it.

[3] Seth Godin’s podcast on freelancers is worth a listen for more on this shift. And in his talk on education, he uses a kid’s word block as a device – asking people to mix together some letters and come up with something interesting….

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