Capability refers to the power or ability to do something.

Capabilities may be innate or intuitive. For example, precocial animals, like giraffes, can often run soon after birth and some people are naturally good at doing things; “he had an intuitive capability of bringing the best out in people”.

More often, however, capabilities are developed and refined through structured processes, learning, reflection and practice. In organisations, they are the result of concerted effort and investment in training, communication and human resources.

While capabilities are difficult to define, they are often the most sought after and respected characteristics of people and organisations. This is how capability is described in the Harvard Business Review:

What people respect about the companies is not how they are structured or their specific approaches to management, but their capabilities—an ability to innovate, for example, or to respond to changing customer needs. Such organizational capabilities, as we call them, are key intangible assets. You can’t see or touch them, yet they can make all the difference in the world when it comes to market value.

Capabilities, or ability to do something is required at many levels and different places.

In a world faced with complex, large-scale and urgent problems, such as climate change, COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals it is increasingly important to understand capabilities and how these can be developed to address challenges and achieve goals effectively.

Capabilities are required at the level of individuals, organisations, infrastructure and governments. Some examples are:

  • Personal capability: This is your own motivation and ability to achieve things.
  • Management capability: This refers to power and abilities to achieve results through other people.
  • Organisational capability: This the ability of an organisation to achieve the goals it sets for itself.
  • Business capability: This is the power of a business to achieve defined business results and goals.
  • Building capability: These are the abilities a building, its occupants and management to achieve particular levels of performance.
  • Neighbourhood capability: This is the power and ability of a community to achieve goals within their area.
  • City capability: This is the power and ability of a city, its occupants and management to achieve defined goals and characteristics.
  • Government capability: This is the power and ability of a government to work with its citizens to achieve specific impacts and goals.

Gauge Capability aims to help develop capabilities by providing access to courses, guides and tools. The name Gauge Capability was developed to reflect the emphasis on developing capabilities and for improving these through learning, measuring, reflection and practice.