Tech-powered KnackApp transforms discovery of talent and skills for a rewarding career


Organizations seek people who can do great work, produce meaningful results, and create lasting value. KnackApp’s unique gamification technique powered by neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence discovers the hidden human potential, helping both the people and the businesses. In this Skill Story, Mahesh Venkateswaran, Head of Business, KnackApp takes us through different aspects of the mobile app and shares his insights on KnackApp’s partnership with NSDC in powering Skill India mission. Let’s read on…

Q: How are you helping organizations and companies in finding the right talent?

A: KnackApp focuses on identifying people’s unique superskills and nanoskills, helping organizations and companies of any size and from all business sectors find the right talent they need. Organizations and companies use KnackApp smartphone games (which are powered by a unique combination of neuroscience and AI) to discover talent anywhere and to index the skills people have that are vital to success. Organizations can list specific skills they seek, and discover the people who exhibit these skills most strongly. In the process, each person also gets to learn about his/her top skills and occupational pathways to success.

Q: Is there any prior education or experience required for the students to play these games to land in the right job?

A: No education or experience is necessary. By design, the games are accessible to every person from any background and walk of life. KnackApp’s ability to identify people’s talent, irrespective of education, experience, gender, age or ethnicity is a critical feature of its innovative technology. Most employers still require formal education qualifications and prior experience, even though these block talented people from seeking and getting the job. These requirements stand in the way of business getting great talent it needs. While degree and prior experience are the most common blockers, there are many others (See more

KnackApp’s superskills and nanoskills make such blockers a thing of the past, and along the way reshape the market for talent. These skill signals unblock companies, enabling them to find more great talent from more diverse backgrounds, and helping them match that talent to the important work that needs to get done.

Mahesh Venkateswaran Business Head KnackAppQ: What’s your view on the skill economy as a driving force in the changing times of the workplace and marketplace?

A: Skills are the new currency. Businesses seek out people who can do great work, work well with others, produce meaningful results, and create lasting value. Skills are the “honest signals” that correlate most strongly with future performance and productivity. This is why the skills economy operates on the basis of a whole new currency that quantifies, and uses, people’s skills as the new global unit of value. This structural shift is the result of businesses reckoning that old school ‘qualifications’ are not correlated with on-the-job performance and business value creation. In this new economy, people should invest in developing, building, demonstrating and certifying their skills; while businesses seek out and hire people with varying skill portfolios.

In this new market, work is becoming a service where people deliver skills; in this new economy Skills-as-a-Service (the new SaaS) is the new transactional paradigm. This paradigm includes superskills and nanoskills.

Superskills are the “components” that make up the unique “operating system” of a person. Superskills include thinking skills, learning skills, social skills, collaboration skills, creative skills, ‘getting things done’ skills, ‘taking feedback’ skills, and more.

Nanoskills are the “apps” that the person “runs” (or could run) on their unique superskills “operating system.” Nanoskills include things someone knows how to do well, or things one can learn quickly how to do well — eg, coding, customer service, inside sales, graphic design, financial modeling, and more

Whether you’re a student, a jobseeker, a skills providers, a university, or a business, preparing for the future of work requires a skills strategy that focuses on these four dimensions — Acquiring and developing skills, Measuring and certifying skills, Demonstrating and signaling skills, and Discovering and deploying skills

Q: How you are incorporating AI to bridge the gap between industry and academia?

A: AI is the key ingredient that makes KnackApp work so well. KnackApp uses cognitive sciences and AI to measure superskills and nanoskills, and to enable business and educational organizations to identify people with the right mix of skills.

Q: What Inspired you to come up with such a unique idea, as the app is one of its kind?

Guy Halfteck KnackAppA: In 2010, Guy Halfteck, our founder, was without a job. It was the height of the financial crisis and jobs were in short supply. He found out about an early-career leadership program opportunity with a well-known hedge fund. The firm, known for its selective recruiting. Guy, who received his doctorate from Harvard just a few years earlier, was excited about the opportunity and very eager to join that firm. About five long months went by before Guy was rejected for not being creative.

Something about this process didn’t feel right to Guy. The personality tests didn’t feel right either, especially for a non-native speaker. Beyond that, Guy realized that if he hadn’t graduated from Harvard, he wouldn’t even have a chance to interview with that firm. In fact, he wouldn’t know about them hiring. This struck him as strange. Frustrated, unemployed, and quickly running out of savings, Guy started looking for a solution to identifying the right person for the job: a solution that wouldn’t rely on credentials, diplomas, pedigree, or tests; that wouldn’t depend on biased, subjective and idiosyncratic evaluations; and that would leverage technology, science, and data. Guy went back to his game theory class notes and started focusing on signaling games. It became clear that game-based signaling held the key to solving this problem. From there on, Guy brought together a world-class team with expertise in game design, computer graphics, behavioral science, computational neuroscience, software engineering, and artificial intelligence to build KnackApp into the company it is today.

Q: We would like to know more about the platform and how the robo-career discovery and guidance solution is helping students to find their strengths and helping them to get jobs?

A: Upon playing KnackApp games, a user gets instant personalized feedback about her/his strongest skills, occupational directions, and education and skill development pathways. This personalized insight guides the user to the best-fit fields and directions for professional success and economic security. KnackApp personalized feedback includes 100 occupational fields, 25 education directions, and more than 50 skills that also include leadership, management, and entrepreneurship. KnackApp informs individuals of their hidden talents, how to develop their innate talent into valuable human capital, and how they can use it to build the most promising economic future.

tech-powered_knackapp_transform_discovery_of_talent_and_skills_for_a_rewarding_careerQ: As you have now partnered with NSDC which is constantly working towards building a skilled workforce, how this partnership will nurture the skills of future India?

A: When you run a large-scale programs like the ones NSDC manages, there is the likelihood that that candidates may not be offered programs that match their talents (due to limited selection of trades in a place), and also likely that candidates may not enrol in programs where they show natural talent for success even though these may be available to them. The role of counselling is vital in such interventions however, in limited resource environments, ensuring high quality of information and training among all counsellors is quite difficult, and thus can impact program outcomes negatively.

KnackApp works with Government and large-scale program implementation agencies in the US, South Africa, India and other parts of the world to solve similar challenges. With NSDC, the partnership kicked off with launching KnackApp with skill-seekers and job-seekers in the Government’s flagship entrepreneurship and skill development program, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).

Our goal in this partnership is to use KnackApp to

  • To ascertain whether candidates enrolled under PMKVY’s short-term training programs are currently undergoing training in job roles where their potential to perform well lies, as per the KnackApp’s personalized talent profiles
  • To explore the logistical feasibility and possible operational bottlenecks in implementing KnackApp pan-India, to PMKVY target beneficiaries.

This program was executed between July and October of 2019 in select target locations identified by the PMKVY team at NSDC. The training partners were trained and equipped with the tools to use KnackApp among the beneficiaries. Currently, NSDC and Knack team are analysing the data obtained from this project, for further dissemination and discussion.

KnackApp aims to provide the 21st century mobile digital infrastructure that brings everyone on board and enables India to build and develop the skilled workforce of the future. The first step in this process is to make candidates aware of their natural talents and pathways available for success.

Q: Who designs the games on your app? Because it looks like a neuroscientist, a psychologist, a software engineer, and gaming experts are involved in it. 

A: The KnackApp team includes talented people with deep knowhow and expertise in the following domains: behavioral neuroscience, cognitive and social psychology, software engineering, data science, game theory, game design, game development, graphic design, and user experience design.

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