This Washington Post article from a few years back has always impressed me. Short version: Technology and STEM-oriented Google researched its employee performance. It turns out technology and STEM were not what their stars had in common. Instead, it was soft skills.
The article goes on to talk about a second study that further confirmed the finding by looking at the high-performing teams at Google. But consider the article’s description of Google’s key soft skills:
being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.Valerie Strauss, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees–and what it means for today’s students.” The Washington Post, 2017.
These are NOT new skills. They are ancient skills. It’s why I feel called to bring the principles and shards of classical education to the modern workplace.
Let’s look at one example that ties to Google’s soft skills. Consider what Socrates says in Plato’s Republic:
‘So dialectic is the only field of inquiry,’ I went on, ‘whose quest for certainty causes it to uproot the things it takes for granted in the course of its journey, which takes it towards an actual starting-point. When the mind’s eye is literally buried deep in the mud, far from home, dialectic gently extracts it and guides upwards, and for this reorientation it draws on the assistance of those areas of expertise we discussed. It’s true that we’ve often called them branches of knowledge in the past, but that’s only a habit and they really need a different word, which implies a higher degree of clarity than belief has, and a higher degree of opacity than knowledge has. Earlier, we used the term “thought.”‘Plato, “The Republic”
“Thought.” Real thought on a “quest for certainty.” How do you get confident in your understanding?
Can you be so humble as to assume you don’t know and acknowledge with your team that you are “buried deep in the mud?”
Can you be so vicious with your mind as to “uproot the things it takes for granted?”
And can you imagine what you could accomplish if you did these things?
No limiting beliefs. No sacred cows. Nothing but what’s really true. “Certainty” about the market, the product, the project.
When you trust that you know what’s true, decisions become easier, and you know what to do throughout the day.
You have wrestled to the truth and grown confident.
Zen Buddhists talk about Shoshin, “Beginner’s Mind.” That is a piece of what Socrates employs here. But let us give the Greeks their due and consider the word Socrates uses, dialectic.
Dialectic is conscious thinking. Because you are asking the right questions of yourself and your team, seeing different perspectives, you are ensuring that you wrestle down to the very truth of what you are talking about.
How do you do that? We’ll take it up in future posts. The latest “It doesn’t take a genius.” podcast (YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and PodBean) gives some additional help. And feel free to contact Hip Socket if you’re itching to get started.
For now, if this is all new to you, welcome to one of the Lost Tools of Business.