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Triple Helix

Skill or competence is a term that always expresses a relationship. Skills gain meaning by relating something. Communication, for example, initially consists only in the production of sounds that often represent language, but which in themselves do not designate communication skills. Only the very speech act, that is, entering into a relation to a situation or other person by means of language, makes a form of expression necessary, which we can then perceive or describe as appropriate or capable. Communication skills are therefore not meaningful from their pure course of action at first. A person’s ability to communicate in a skillfull way in relation to something or someone only gains meaning through the context in which one acts. Moreover, to follow this example, the direction of communication is not always towards another person, such as a dialogue partner. Communication can also express a relationship to oneself and one’s own position or to a certain object – such as a discourse about a certain subject matter area. Three such relations can be reconstructed in the empirical data of the Future Skills Study: An actor can develop Future Skills in relation to her/himself, can develop them in relation to dealing with a task, a topic or an object s/he is working on, or in relation to an organisational environment, i.e. the social system.


Due to the close interrelated integration of all three dimensions, we refer to this concept as the Triple Helix-Model of Future Skills or the Future Skills Triple Helix-Model, alluding to the biological concept of DNA and its helix structure. The concept allows the formal description of actions in highly emergent contexts. An individual’s capacity to act therefore depends on his/her inner subjective constitution in relation to their action; it also depends on the perceived individual concept of his/her ability to act regarding a task/the object of action; and it depends, thirdly, on the relation of the acting individual to the social dimension regarding the context of his/her action. All three relations are related to each other. This means that performance in a context in which Future Skills come into play is the result of an interplay of the described tripartite structure.

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All three dimensions are interconnected and influence each other. For example, self-reflection competence affects not only the subjective development of an acting individual, but also the ability to communicate and cooperate (social or organisational dimension) and, in turn, the system competence of an individual (object dimension). In this respect, different Future Skills are involved in each action. The three dimensions thus form the Future Skills Triple Helix DNA in which the three skill dimensions interact in concrete actions. This conceptual framework allows a better understanding of the factors that determine future capacity to act.

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