UK-Mexico Soft-Skills consultant Tom Scott on in-demand soft-skills for 2022. Just how important are soft-skills in areas like innovation and creativity?
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The world around us evolves every day. Some skills we have learned are still in demand. Other skills have become obsolete. Which skills will be more in demand than others in the future? Industry reports and studies have made big predictions for 2022.
Reports predict two skills employers will demand the most are linked to innovation and problem solving. The consensus on these two skill areas is strong. The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018 places analytical thinking and innovation top.
The Common Theme: Soft-Skills
One common theme stands out in all these reports. The demand for soft-skills is evidently higher. Many activities and tasks will be automated. Data-collection and manual labour will decline. Relationship management, creative activities and customer relations will increase.
Demand for employees with advanced soft-skills will therefore increase. A 2018 Linked-In report showed a majority of CEOs of major companies believed soft-skills were most important to invest in. To remain ahead of the market, companies must ensure employees are skilled in human skills that support innovation.
Ideas are Not Innovation
How to teach innovation is complex. People want to know what makes someone an innovator. They also want to know why it is some people innovate more than others. Ideas are needed for innovation to occur, but ideas alone are not enough.
To understand what makes someone innovative, it is understand the concept. To successfully and consistently innovate, innovators need a range of different soft-skills.
One way to break these skills down was proposed by Elizabeth Chell and Rosemary Athayde at Kingston University. In their study of innovative behaviours in young people, they proposed 5 catergories. These were leadership, creativity, energy, self-efficacy and risk-propensity.
The authors argue that a strong indication of innovation ability is a higher scores across all categories. Not only do innovators need to be creative and generate new ideas, they also need leadership and persuasion skills. If they can’t convince others of their ideas, these ideas will fall flat. Energy and motivation to challenge the status quo are also needed to get momentum.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Working around the world has shown me many companies approach innovation in a capricious manner. Old clichés appear regularly. For example, someone who had one good idea becomes head of the innovation initiative. Alternately, a really creative person with no leadership abilities heads up the drive.
This arbitrary approach to innovation is dangerous. Companies must think carefully about how to build individuals and teams who have a wide array of behaviours and skills for innovation. Training courses, either in house or out, should be more than just about creating an environment for innovation.
Theoretical and practical tasks must be designed to develop specific skills and competencies. These tasks should cover all five areas identified above. Design thinking approaches are great for creating customer-centric ideas. But, participants in these courses should be trained in influence skills as well.
Additionally, tasks should develop soft-skills relating to risk taking. Helping break people from perfectionism traps is essential to help people innovate consistently. If tasks are just focused on idea creation, what happens when people are too afraid to act on these ideas?
Redefining your Innovation Development Plan
Designing programs for effective innovation development can be challenging for companies. I have worked with different incubators and organisations to teach soft-skills for innovation. Basing training on theories of innovation is a good start. But a truly robust program focuses on essential human skills. To be competitive in the future, make sure you do not ignore soft-skills. This element of innovation and creativity is critical.
Interested in knowing more, contact Tom Scott. One of Conversari’s internationally mobile consultants, Tom holds an MBA (Leadership). He is currently undergoing his Doctorate in Education, focusing on entrepreneurial and innovation education.