Saturday, March 8, 2014

Five Soft Skills. Three Questions

Below is a summary of a column by Thomas L. Friedman published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 2014.

“G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.” so says Lazlo Bock, the guy in charge of hiring at Google, in an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times. 
This is not to say that most jobs at Google don’t require hard skills like math, computing, and coding skills. They do. But these hard skills by themselves are useless unless the person who has them can work collaboratively on a team. 
Bock lists the 5 qualities that Google looks for when finding talent. These 5 qualities are soft skills that are increasingly important today when innovation is increasingly achieved by groups of people working collaboratively.
  1. Learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information and make use of them.
  2. Leadership. Not traditional leadership, like being the president of your student body. What Google cares about is this. When your team is faced with a problem, do you step in and lead when your leadership skills are the ones needed? And, just as important, can you step back to let someone else lead when they could do it better?
  3. Ownership. Being responsible and stepping up to try to solve problems when they arise even when they’re not “your” problem.
  4. Intellectual Humility. Google wants you to be fiercely argue for your positions and ideas while at the same time being ready to step back when presented with better ideas. Successful people at Google have a big ego and a small ego at the same time.
  5. Expertise. This is the least important attribute. Because if someone has the four qualities listed above, they will likely come up with the same solutions as an “expert” would.

Questions for readers: 

If companies think that test scores are worthless in making hiring decisions, why are educational policy makers focusing so narrowly on improving test scores? 

Can we design schools to develop the 5 soft skills described above? 

For young children, wouldn’t the kindergartens of yesteryear do a better job teaching soft skills than what we commonly see in kindergarten today?

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