23 August 2019
“We know that, right now and in the foreseeable future, machines are generally poor at understanding a person’s mood, at sensing the situation around them, and at developing trusting relationships. This is why human ‘soft skills’ will become increasingly valuable — skills such as empathy, context sensing, collaboration, and creative thinking.”
The above statement was made by Lynda Gratton, a global expert in work organization. For a long time, she’s focused on reskilling and soft skills training and development.
The World Economic Forum have made similar statements recently on the future of work. Human beings can still be competitive workers, and will be so long as they continue to develop their “human” skills.
However, Gratton highlighted three small obstacles to this in a recent MIT Sloane Management Review article:
1) we don’t learn these skills at school because we’re stuck with an old curriculum that dates back to the industrial revolution (sit still, memorize information and obey the rules);
2) technology doesn’t use soft skills, it eliminates them (Alexa never “gets offended”);
3) workplaces create stressful conditions that stop people from fully developing and using them.
Fortunately there are many human skills training programs out there. They generate over 164 billion euros of revenue each year in the United States alone. Are they useful? Not according to Gratton:
“Unlike many cognitive skills, social skills cannot be learned in a rule-based way — there is no specifiable path to social effectiveness. Building job-related social skills for a work environment requires an immersive learning experience, rehearsed in situations as close as possible to the real job, with lots of opportunities for practice. This kind of skill development is essentially a process of trial and error, where we behave in a certain way, get feedback through subtle social cues, and try again. Practice creates the muscle of habit”.
An immersive experience that can recreate reality, with multiple opportunities to apply those skills on a regular basis. Training programs built in this way would be very expensive. A day in the classroom (or even a week!) would not give us enough time to recreate multiple practice situations to exercise empathy, understand the context and creative thinking. In her article, professor Gratton lists some good emerging practices which use augmented or virtual reality to create micro-training grounds that mimic reality. They provide feedback that generates the awareness necessary for soft skills training.
But an Italian father has recently published a post on LinkedIn with a decidedly more innovative proposal as compared to the simple use of augmented reality. A communications manager at Italgas, Mirko Cafaro’s post is titled How being a father made my job “easier”. Mirko found his 10 month-old daughter to be the perfect coach. She offers him continuous, immersive practice every day, giving him immediate feedback on 10 soft skills.
We want to share them with you, as Mirko has written them so clearly and beautifully. So, thank you Mirko for giving us permission to do so:
No boss will be able to put you under the same pressure as a little girl who cries and screams because she is hungry. Above all, when the baby bottle or the food always takes way too long to get warm. It’s Murphy’s Law.
Preparing an outing or an activity away from home is a complex puzzle. There is no check-list or supplier that can prevent you from forgetting something of vital importance (water, milk, diapers, etc.). Corporate events in comparison? All we have to do is implement the protocol.
It’s not always easy to understand and anticipate our bosses’ needs. Children’s needs are more like a riddle, especially when they cannot speak. We need to use trial and error.
How many variables surround a work commitment, a corporate activity, an event. Easy to count? Now see how many more variables there are when we think about a family event.
This point is perhaps the only one that is different from the previous ones, because in this case it is your child who dictates the agenda (in their own way). With the substantial difference that these priorities will be far greater than those of any day at the office.
Isn’t it easier to get a raise from your boss than a prompt response from a child who is busy watching their favorite cartoon?
With a little practice, improvisation can be fascinating for any profession. However when you add a child to the mix, it’s more similar to walking a tightrope – without a safety net, of course.
No action will ever be distantly comparable to delicately placing your child in bed — perhaps after having cradled them for a long time — avoiding any noise or muscle spasm that might awaken them.
Once you’ve discover what no feedback means from your child – either positive or negative – the same situation in the professional context will have the same scale and impact.
Multiple children help us to train this skill. For example, try explaining to your daughter that she can’t forcefully claim everything as hers, even when she tries to affirm her decisions with considerable strength.
In conclusion, Mirko’s company has the best soft skills training mentor at their full disposal. And that’s without them knowing it or having to spend a euro! Is there a basis to propose an alternative to AR or VR? Can we start using “reality” more?
This article was originally written by Riccarda Zezza and published on the Il Sole 24 Ore blog, Alley Oop. To read the original article (in Italian), please click here.