About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The "soft skills"

The Financial Times has had two thought provoking articles this week. The first was an entry in an MBA student's journal (they have a regular series written by MBA students in world class programs). In it, William McKenzie, formerly of the US Air Force, identified some skills that he would not have noticed had he not studied for his MBA. To paraphrase his article, I would say these skills include:

  • Networking
  • Interacting with others on a wide variety of topics to create better understanding
  • Journaling as a form of reflective learning
  • Collaboration
  • Problem solving in a dynamic environment
  • Being open to change and comfortable in taking risks with the best data at hand
In today's digital business section, editor Peter Whitehead points to the opinion that many business leaders have that Business is changing because of the Web 2.0. Another article indicates that Web 2.0 are best suited to small and medium sized companies because of cost as long as the technology is "simple" (I think the term "user-friendly" is more suitable as simple is not necessarily simpler for the user to use).

This has me thinking about what "soft skills" (those that may be difficult to identify) will be needed for workplace literacy. Communication skills (listening and reading feedback especially) should be included. So should the ability to "read" a situation that is unknown and ambiguous be a skill workers need. Once the situation has been "read" the ability to generate and test out various options and scenarios is important. Also, the skill of being able to interact with others, understand their perspective (perspective taking), and build a common understanding (meaning making) is a vital skill that I think is being lost. A contributer to the FT article noted "the Web 2.0 generation may be shocked to learn that everyone's opinion is not equally valid on every subject." It may be generational, but a good worker needs to understand the political structure of the workplace. This can be especially difficult as many are no longer in the same location, nor is there "personal" interaction within or outside of work tasks in many companies (especially global companies). This is just the beginning of the list of "soft skills". What else might I be missing?


John said...

I have not thought this through enough yet, but what about the soft skill of sifting through all of the information (and there is a lot out there) and deciding what is important and what isn't. I don't have a catchy name for the skill, but it seems to me that it is necessary in this digital age of constant information flow.


V Yonkers said...

Good point. Could this be prioritizing information? I remember one of my students doing a market plan for entering the Indian market. Another student did the project on Palau. These countries were assigned to the students. The student who did Palau wanted to switch with the student doing India. By the end of the semester, the student doing the project on India was kicking himself for not switching as there was much (contrasting) information on India, but little for Palau.

I think there also necessitates the ability to analyze information (not just sort, but also evaluate and make decisions on available information). I find my students are afraid to make decisions due to lack of confidence and not wanting to make a "wrong" decision.

Perhaps then a related skill would be to have a tolerance for ambiguity and decision making skills (here again, prioritizing information).