A recent article in the New York Times explores how we can prepare the workers of the future for the jobs of the future. One important component of that effort will be teaching any worker “soft” skills—working in teams, communication, empathy. As the Times piece states:
Educators should focus on teaching technical skills, like coding and statistics, and skills that still give humans an edge over machines, like creativity and collaboration, experts say. And since no one knows which jobs will be automated later, it may be most important to learn flexibility and how to learn new things.
(emphases in original)
This is consistent with research from David Deming of the Harvard School of Education that stresses the importance of these types of skills in the workforce of tomorrow.
In the prescient A Whole New Mind: How Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, published in 2005, Dan Pink argued that:
Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that powerful computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age.
He identified six “aptitudes” he believes are necessary for those whose jobs are threatened by automation and outsourcing:
Design: Creating something beautiful or engaging.
Story: Telling a compelling narrative.
Symphony: Seeing the big picture/coordinating resources.
Empathy: Forging relationships.
Play: Engaging lightheartedly.
Meaning: Pursuing fulfillment.
In my class “Law and Social Innovation: Creative Problem Solving,” I try to offer students the opportunity to develop these aptitudes as they tackle thorny collective action problems like the thousands of vacant and abandoned homes that plague post-industrial cities in the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2008. Read more about the class here.