“Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems or ideas that others find unrelated.” (Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clay Christensen)
Soft Skills are Critical Skills
I learned about Soft Skills from a report I read from the World Economic Forum in 2015 called “The Future of Jobs Report.”
In the report, it talked about the increasing role of automation. It talked about the gap between the demand by business for technical skills and a skilled workforce. Part of the solution to this gap was to automate as much as possible. Make software that could perform some of these technical tasks and make programming easier for people to use.
Another big part of the report was explaining the need for soft skills as our ability to communicate and influence others was necessary for the human workforce, just as the technical requirements were being passed along to machines and software through automation.
What are the soft skills we need to be effective in today’s workforce?
Do People Like You?
People do business with people they like. They don’t do business with people who are just smart. There’s plenty of people who are very smart and very rude. And if we can avoid doing business with them, we do.
I don’t know about you, but if I have a choice between doing business with someone who is smart and likeable and someone who is smart and rude, I will always choose the likeable person.
This is where soft skills come in. This blog post will give you tools to improve your likeability.
Strategy is a Soft Skill
When I was a kid, I spent a great summer of fun and learning with my new neighbor Dunea. He was my age, and we loved playing all the same sports and board games. But what really made my summer with Dunea great fun was when we discovered and played a lot of chess. And, by a lot, I mean we played over 100 games that summer.
We pushed each other to learn more and more. We both read books. We learned from each other’s strategies. We got better and better, because we played each other. We both became more creative and we both started seeing moves farther and farther ahead. These strategy skills could be described as soft skills.
You might think that you need to learn the latest technical skills to stay current. This is only partially right. The reason I say this is there will come a day in the near future where every job will be automated if it’s possible to do so. And, I don’t mean just throwing physical robots onto an assembly line, I mean automating the repetitive tasks performed by knowledge workers.
If that doesn’t scare you, it should. But, where does that leave humans?
The soft skills you can learn, the skills that make us human, should not be neglected.
What are Soft Skills? “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” (Source: Google definition)
According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report from 2018, Soft Skills are becoming increasingly important:
“Proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the 2022 skills equation. However, ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will likewise retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving. Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence.” (Source: World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs Report” https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018/)
Three Soft Skills You Need
Here’s the top three Soft Skills I’d recommend for you to develop, which can never be automated:
Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking, Leadership and Marketing and Creativity.
Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking is developed by taking on challenging problems. These will not be easy to solve and may involve elements where more than just a high IQ or Intelligence Quotient is needed. You may also need a high EQ or Emotional Quotient. How will the solution you are proposing impact how people feel and think? What will be the societal impact of the solution proposed? What key influencers will need to be on the side of the solution to make sure it’s well-received?
Leadership and Marketing are often considered separate skill sets, but in reality they inextricably linked. Why? In his book, “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about moving Others,” Dan Pink states that we are all in sales. Whether you are selling a car, a house or an idea, each and every day we make our case for approval to others. This book I’m writing is marketing my ideas to you. I am leading you through a series of ideas that will help make your life better.
Creativity is available to each one of us. It is a fallacy to think, “I am not a creative person.” The truth is while you may think that, perhaps you just don’t know how to tap into your creativity. Creativity, like any Soft Skill, can be developed.
Are You an Innovator?
According to the audiobook, “The Innovator’s DNA”, there are four ways Innovator’s like Steve Jobs think differently than the rest of us. These areas are:
- Questioning – “Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry. Their queries frequently challenge the status quo, just as Jobs did when he asked, ‘Why does a computer need a fan?'”
- Observing – “Innovators are also intense observers. They carefully watch the world around them — including customers, products, services, technologies, and companies — and the observations help them gain insights into and ideas for new ways of doing things. Jobs’s observation trip to Xerox PARC…”
- Networking – Innovators are discovery-driven. They enjoy learning about new ideas and are not afraid to look for them. They will look for them by attending conferences outside of their domain, meeting regularly with people outside of their industry and interacting with others who have different backgrounds from them.
- Experimenting – “Finally, Innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas. Experimenters unceasingly explore the world intellectually and experientially, holding convictions at bay and testing hypotheses along the way.”
All of these four elements apply to creativity. Why? Because they contribute to the variety of ideas to which you are exposed. If you continue to use the same types of thoughts from the same resources, day after day, you will become very deeply ingrained with just one point-of-view. Creativity requires us to absorb different ideas to marinate into new hybrid ideas.
Practical Ways to Develop Soft Skills
A great way to improve your Soft Skills, like any other skill, actually, is to meet with people face-to-face. Share your ideas with others and get their reactions. Here are three ways you can meet with people, especially with people who have different interests than you:
- Meetups – “Meetups are neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something…” https://www.meetup.com
- Toastmasters – Learn to give effective presentations by practicing your speaking skills. https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club
- Social Challenge – I heard this from an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast. Go to any retail establishment and as you check out, ask for a 10% discount on what you are purchasing. It could be at a coffee shop, at a clothing store, at a bookstore, etc. Even if they say no, this will help you get past the fear of asking.
People like People that make them laugh
Try to remember the last time you purchased something. Did you buy it from someone you liked? Did you only buy it because you liked them?
I have met people that I just liked. If I were an Eskimo and they were selling me snow, I would buy it from them.
How do get people to like you? Make them laugh. A great way to train yourself in comedy is to find a comedian that’s funny to you and that reminds you of yourself. I really like the comedy of Jim Gaffigan. He tells stories about his life with 5 kids, food, bacon, hot pockets and other observations about the world (did I also mention “bacon” — the man is obsessed with bacon!).
Jim is a “Clean Comedian” and I especially enjoy his background commentary that he gives on his comedy while telling his stories. This is something I try to emulate in my own comedy (does this guy really think he’s a comedian? Who is he kidding?).
Be a person that people like and you will increase your income!
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