Examining Seven Life Skills

Innovation strategies depend not on reinventing the wheel, but on implementing the strategies into existing educational frameworks. I think that as agents of innovation, we as educators are trying to achieve most of the same goals as as the ones laid out by our organizations, but are advocating “new and improved” ways of doing so. The lists of skills developed respectively by Tony Wagner and Ellen Galinsky, are a great reminder of what we seek to cultivate in the students: education and learning not as an end in and of themselves, but as a way to develop student’s abilities for their lives ahead. Wagner and Galinsky have significant overlap in their seven skills, but each of them do have several unique features. I used a graphic organizer to compare each list of seven skills and was able to identify three major areas where they overlapped:

- Communication - Wagner emphasizes developing voice, while Galinsky discusses communicating a message that is designed to reach a target audience.
- Critical thinking - Both stress the ability to be able to analyze the vast amounts of information that is available to use today due to technology.
- Drive, motivation and versatility - Wagner and Galinsky word these concepts differently, but both of them recognize that these characteristics are a crucial skills for an individual’s career.

Galinsky’s idea of “perspective taking” is also one aspect of “curiosity and imagination” as described by Wagner; one really does need to be curious and use imagination to see things from the perspective of another person. I think that the areas in which where they differ is due to the different perspectives and goals of the authors. Wagner expressed these seven skills with a great emphasis on career-readiness and advancement, entrepreneurialism, and having the skills that employers are looking for. He places great importance on the skills of networking and collaboration, saying that they drive innovation and provide a form of accountability. Galinsky highlighted the growth and development of the individual from childhood, and how these skills are related to cognition and the executive functions of the brain. While she focuses on the development of the individual, she also speaks of developing engagement, and how the business community views that as a major predictor of productivity.

I think that as educators we need to try to develop our students from both perspectives and need to be asking questions from both perspectives. In my own teaching career I’ve asked the questions “How can I encourage students to be self-motivated lifelong learners?” and “What skills do my students need to develop for college and careers?”. When we are creating curriculum and teaching lessons we need to be aware that we need to be cultivating a lifelong sense of inquiry, communication and collaboration skills, and readiness for higher education and careers.


Galinsky, E. [Big Think]. (2013, July 17). The seven essential life skills, with Ellen Galinsky [Video file]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdIkQnTy6jA 

Wagner, T. [Asia Society]. (2009, October 1). 7 Skills students need for their future [Video file]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS2PqTTxFFc


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