September 01, 2023

Soft Skills, the competitive differentiator in the age of AI

In the past two decades, we’ve been showered with of technological innovations promising to simplify our lives, boost efficiency, and usher in prosperity. This era has seen a significant shift toward tech-based education, touted as the definitive path forward in the information age. 

Unfortunately, such a shift came at the expense of humanistic subjects and skills, grouped under the umbrella of “soft” skills, with the word “soft” almost acquiring a derogatory, belittling quality. 

I still recall when discussing my education with a previous employer, and when addressing my background in art, philosophy and humanities, his comment was: “Ah, so mainly soft stuff”. We then agreed that such a background, applied to my job back then in sales, provided me with an edge, but I still recall the initial dismissive tinge in uttering the word “soft”. 

13 years later, much of what I was doing back then looks prehistoric and many tasks have been automated, gradually freeing up time and also freeing up… offices. I have already seen many processes being streamlined, many companies “reducing their employee’s footprint” or any other corporate poetry hinting at firing people. 

Is this a new phenomenon? Not really. However, with the rapid pace of technological innovation, it's happening even faster and impacting not just blue-collar jobs but also white-collar positions. What's the solution? Should we all rush to acquire the next big technical skill, or are we doomed if we don't become prompt engineers?

Let’s look at what is happening in Silicon Valley and at prominent tech companies. Many of the tech jobs that were exceptionally well paid until yesterday are now at risk, or at least demand an adaptation in line with the automation of much of what was regarded as high value skills.