Acumen: A Vital, Context-Dependent Set of Capabilities

Acumen is another abstract but vital concept which we evaluate and cultivate at Emerge CCS. Acumen refers to a set of capabilities which is specific to an area of expertise. In other words, the specific skills which contribute to acumen will be different in engineering, teaching, politics or hospitality.

Acumen, Defined

Webster’s Dictionary defines acumen as: keenness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination especially in practical matters.

Acumen: a Matter of Perspective

According to the Five Sciences, acumen is assessed using these three dimensions of thought:
• Intrinsic (feeling)
• Extrinsic (doing)
• Systemic (thinking)

Another way of viewing the three facets above is as lenses by which people filter information: do they process events from a people (feeling) standpoint, a task (doing) standpoint or a system (thinking) standpoint? These perspectives apply both externally and internally, to world-view and to self-view.

A person with high acumen has a superior, multi-dimensional understanding of a situation, which will enable them to deal with a situation in a more productive matter. Their acumen can be described according to these six aspects:
• Understanding Others
• Practical Thinking
• Systems Judgment
• Sense of Self
• Role Awareness
• Self Direction

Benefits of Acumen

A person with good acumen in their field will be able to consider and integrate concerns from all six of the perspectives above.

The bottom line: acumen means being savvy, demonstrating a complex, broad and nimble sense of understanding. Seeing the big picture and understanding how the various moving parts impact the whole are essential qualities of acumen, and are vital leadership qualities.


Written by Julie Soderlund
on October 9, 2017

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