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The Rising Importance of Soft Skills

Conversable Economist: “What skills are most important for an employee to succeed at Google? Back in 2013, the company undertook Project Oxygen to answer that question.  Cathy N. Davidson described the result in the Washington Post last month (“The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students,” December 20, 2017).  She writes:

“Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all 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.”

Well, Google is a big company. Perhaps the soft skills matter for a lot of its employees. But for the A-level invention teams, surely the technical skills count for more? Last spring, Google tested that hypothesis with Project Aristotle. Davidson reports the results…”

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