Potential x Conversational
Distributed Work & Soft Skills
What are the predominant soft skills when working from anywhere, aka distributed work? This is a question we had in our Perpetual Beta Coffee Club at the end of Spring 2020. Below the take from the host of the PBCC, Harold Jarche, on distributed work.
What the heck are soft skills? Why are they important in the context of distributed work?
“Soft skills separate humans from machines. They are permanent skills. For the past several centuries we have used human labour to do what machines cannot. First the machines caught up with us, and surpassed humans, with their brute force. Now they are surpassing us with their brute intelligence. There is not much more need for machine-like human work which is routine, standardized, or brute.
This requires a rethinking of how we categorize work, define jobs, attract and retain talent. It should be based on talent, not labour. It also means a rethinking of our entire education system. These permanent (soft) skills are not developed through standardized curriculum based on temporary (hard) skills. It’s time to take the long-term view on human work and learning. What was categorized as Labour is merely a temporary skill for market and technological conditions. Talent, or permanent skills, is our long-term value as humans to each other.“ ― @hjarche
I was involved in a startup to enable organizations and individuals to develop life skills in our modern and connected world. Lately, I have noticed that soft skills development and evaluation themes are resurfacing through my network and weak ties. As I tweeted:
How can we develop and [self-]evaluate soft skills, especially creativity, collaboration, communication, creativity? And cooperation? https://blog.learnlets.com/2021/04/evaluating-soft-skills
A question that has resurfaced in two learning and community projects as a tough challenge to tackle and explore.
Now I ponder what we did with our teams and learning communities in previous projects through questions. For example, is it really worthwhile to assess soft skills in the workplace?
“Most soft skills deal with our relationships to others. The drive to individually behavioralize, then metricize, has the effect of killing relationships—an ironic outcome for relationship-targeting training.” — @CharlesHGreen
And those tweets I noticed:
“If you think that training can address what are called ‘soft skills’, then you are already going in the wrong direction.” — @hjarche
From Soft Skills to Power Skills
How about power skills instead of soft skills?
“I love the term ‘power skills’ instead of soft skills. Interestingly the roles needs are still listed as specific hard skills. To improve power skills, organizations are going to need therapists, psychologists, and community managers – not seeing that on anyone’s roadmap. https://twitter.com/ChrisMayer_WP/status/1330162129316556805” — @rhappe
What does your future/power skills galaxy look like? What is your power skills development strategy, roadmap, and action maps? In my previous post about activation through the visual from a skills framework, I shared my current exploration in progress.
From Skills to Capabilities
What if the lens of skills needs to be taken to another level? Capability, capacity, context, conversation, community, choice, and cultivating conditions. Anne Marie Rattray dives deep with her article. An extract:
I have been thinking and writing about developing skills in the flow of work but wondered recently watching ‘Tomorrow’s teams today: Building capabilities needed to transform’, from the McKinsey Academy, if my focus on skills is perhaps misplaced. Should I be talking about capability instead? The reason I had focused on skills is because I see them as an outcome of action and applied knowledge, which in turn depend on capability and capacity.”
After much mulling, I prefer to follow the McKinsey Academy’s lead and talk about capability. It suggests potential for action. Plus, capability is more encompassing. It applies to both individuals and organisations.”
If capability is about potential for action, capacity is about the conditions that enable potential to be realised. People need capacity – personal and organisational – to be able to build capability. That means time, space and place, energy, opportunity, freedom, plus access to social networks, resources, technologies, and performance support systems.”— Anne Marie Rattray
Where do working from anywhere and cultivating capability start? No easy answer, right? Perhaps, it starts with actionable insights from a fellow seeker and PBCC community member, Luis Suarez:
‘WFA [Work From Anywhere] extends individual labour, obsolesces the office, retrieves the written word, and could reverse into digitally connected sweatshops.’
‘The best way to communicate with a distributed team is in writing, especially when you factor in multiple time zones. Good writing skills will become critical in a distributed workplace.’
‘In 2020 Prodoscore looked at 90,000 data points from 7,000 workers. One interesting finding was that high performers regularly used voice & video less often than low performers. The tool of choice for high performers was messaging & chat’.
Talking about re-thinking the purpose of one’s work in a distributed workplace! Whoaaah! Video/Voice alone, indeed, are not longer good enough.
Mastering the art of facilitating two-way conversations is where the game is at … (It always has been all along! 😅👍🏻)” ― @elsua