Ernest J Wilson lll

Annenberg Chair in Communication; Dean, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California

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May 13, 2019
Replying to Baiju Khanchandani

Regarding the question, balance between hard skills and soft skills, and the five point summary for soft skills in the article (adaptability, cultural competency, empathy, intellectual curiosity, 360° thinking), a functional neurology and cognitive neuroscience approach to the problem/opportunity is opportune. The acquisition of skills, hard or soft, falls under the neuroscience of learning (great 1 hour video summary on Linked In...); and the five soft skills are all functions of various areas and networks in the brain. Behavioural Economics researchers have been awarded 4 of the last 11 Nobel prizes for Economics, so it time to transfer the neuroscience and the economics to the shop and office floor. 

The most cost-effective and brain targetting neuro-hack is exercise integrated into the working week and advice to workers on brain and body health: health and safety in the home, nutrition (start with the vending machine), sleep ergonomics and dynamics for example.  What is the point of an expensive office chair if the worker slumps on a 20 year old sofa for 4 hours a night at home eating crisps?

Once brain and body health are being addressed in this way a number of smartphone Apps exist to benchmark progress.  The Apps and questionnaires can be used to test workers at the outset of a wellness promotion programme and Highmark EQ in particular can be used to train workers and they can spot dips in brain function and seek help before work becomes a problem or symptoms manifest. 

Exercise, nutrition, sleep, home ergonomics, the use of brain training apps can make brains more adaptable by promoting neuroplasticity, and empathy and intellectual curiosity and holistic/whole brain thinking all benefit. Cultural competency is more a cultural competency.  

Valuable comments. I have been postponing my plunge into the neurological aspects of soft and hard skills..your suggestions remind me that I must do so, soon.