In two days’ time, I have finished reading a book titled “The Advantage”, with a sub-title: “The 7 soft skills you need to stay one step ahead”. It was written by Emma-Sue Prince, who is the director of Unimenta (focuses on delivering soft skills trainings). I came across this book, again through my previous club officer’s recommendation and I really found this book worthwhile to read and I suggest you read it too.
Before I start writing about what I have learnt from this book, let me first share with you how I approached reading this book in the first place. Browsing through its table of content, I had a rough idea that the chapters of this book was structured following sequence of the 7 soft skills, namely “Adaptability”, “Critical Thinking”, “Empathy”, “Integrity”, “Optimism”, “Being Proactive” and “Resilience”. Then, what I decided to do was to list out all my previous understanding towards these 7 soft skills on a piece of paper. After finishing reading this book, I used this list as a proxy to make a comparison between my new understanding and old understanding of them. What I realized was that there was a huge disparity between them and this book had really provided me with a much greater and deeper understanding towards these 7 soft skills, which I will further elaborate in later posts. You may try this approach next time and see if it let you see clearer the difference between your “before” and “after” understanding.
Figure 1: The list of my “old” understanding towards those 7 soft skills.
As for a head start, this book started off by painting a picture of how the world and its rules have changed massively, particularly in the fields of technology, workplace, globalization, demographic changes, health and education. What worked in the past may no longer work now. Indeed, whether we are aware or unaware, the world that we are now living in is really changing so rapidly that we may not even realize how fast its pace is. Say for instance, the communication cost has dropped incredibly over these past few decades and vast amount of information has now become readily accessible through Internet, which was far beyond imagination back in twentieth century. With the increasing accessibility of information, inevitable it levels up competition to a much stiffer level as everyone on the web now has equal ability to access to that pool of information online. However, not everyone knows how to make use of information available to them intelligently. A piece of information may be just worthless to you but people who know the underlying value of that piece of information can easily make money using it. As such, we can easily make an inference that people who are better in mastering the new rules of today’s world will have a significantly high probability than those who don’t, in achieving successes in their life.
Figure 2: We are now living in a connected complex world.
Let me share another example. Recently, “artificial intelligence” has become a new hot topic which is claimed to be able to change the conventional ways human do things. In fact, they can really achieve it and this threat is not so far from us. It is foreseeable that most if not all repetitive human works will be eventually replaced by systems equipped with artificial intelligence, which is far better than humans at repetitively doing the same tasks. In fact, there are a lot of lawyer graduates who are now facing unemployment as the tedious works of browsing through tons of past cases have been easily replaced by algorithms which can search for relevant cases within a much shorter time and with a much higher accuracy. People may argue that there is still a long way to go before algorithms can eventually replace humans in processing those tedious jobs. However, we should bear in mind that the cycle of technological innovation has become much shorter now. With the ever-improving state-of-art information technology infrastructures as well as the increasing number of open source platforms like Google’s TensorFlow (Android developer platform) and Apple’s ARKit (Augmented reality developer platform), the time required to materialize one new technology has been incredibly shortened. If we still remain ignorant of the rapid changes happening around us, soon or later we will find ourselves losing our competitiveness as compared to those algorithms.
Figure 3: Apple launched its ARKit, Augmented Reality developer platform during its WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) on 5-9 June 2017.
From the two examples illustrated above, I hope that you can have a clear picture of how fast the world is really changing. In the face of such a fast-changing world, characterized by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), the book enlightened us to rediscover those 7 soft skills, which have been naturally inherent within ourselves, but unfortunately, they have long been forgotten by us. These soft skills are of paramount importance in a sense that they could potentially serve as the differentiator which makes us stand out from the rest when we start stepping into work society. However, we have been neglecting their importance, or we could even be completely unaware of their underlying potential, thus resulting in us not applying or honing them at all. As a result, they progressively become rusty and therefore we are not able to leverage their hidden strengths.
This article serves as the backdrop before I start delving deeper into those 7 soft skills. Don’t be disheartened by the hard truth above. According to the book, it is possible for us to “revive” those 7 soft skills and we indeed have the innate ability to do so, thanks to the practical tips offered by the author. In my next few posts, I will be sharing about my old and new understanding of each of those 7 soft skills. For your information, greater emphasis will be placed on explaining and clarifying the core concepts of those 7 soft skills instead of sharing tips on how to develop those skills. If you are really interested in developing those soft skills, I would recommend you get a copy of this book and explore it on your own. Stay tuned for next few posts if you would like to build up a deeper understanding towards these 7 soft skills.