What Every Good Waitress and Doctor Has In Common

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There is a specific set of cognitive skills that every successful worker in America has, regardless of whether he or she waits tables or performs heart surgery. Dr. Mike Rose has narrowed down those skills in his book, "The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker."


In this week's work segment, Rose shares his insights, while Beth Kobliner, our work contributor, tells us how we can showcase and sell those skills if we are looking to (or being forced to) change professions.

Dr. Rose's List of Skills that Every Successful Worker Has:

  1. The ability to translate the abstract into something concrete. When someone says to the hairdresser that they need something 'light and summery,' what does that mean? And what does it mean when a customer tells an investment banker that he wants something that's going to 'give him security?' A good worker can translate abstract requests into concrete actions.
  2. Refined perceptions. In other words, learning how to see, taste, touch, hear and taste to the best of one's abailities for the job. For example, both plumbers and surgeons need a refined sense of touch. Mechanics and teachers need a refined sense of hearing. And waitresses, taxi drivers and athletes need a refined sense of sight.
  3. A pride of aesthetics. An electrician opens a wall and sees a bunch of wires inside that are perfectly braided. To him or her, it's all beautiful, because it's well-done. A mathematician can see the beauty in an equation. And a doctor can appreciate the intricacies of the human body as something breathtaking.



Mike Rose, PhD

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


Beth Kobliner

Comments [2]


"Ansi Vallens" has a certain point about how certain practical skills are needed before certain "intellectual" or "academic" skills, but following Ansi Vallens' own logic, if carpenters, plumbers, electricians (etc) were to help in rebuilding Haiti, and after such work is done, there then would be a need for the people to be educated.

Jan. 21 2010 04:10 PM
Ansi Vallens from Austerlitz, NY

Your report, while perhaps well-intentioned, was very patronzing. Blue collar workers don't need insipid advice from some professor flogging a book. They need a domestic economy in which they can realize their full potential. Given the chance, American craftsmen are the best there is. What would serve Haiti better right now -- 1,000 carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics and masons? Or, 1,000 sociology professors?

Jan. 19 2010 10:08 AM

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