“Humans Are Underrated – Building the New High-Level Skills”

It’s one of the largest questions facing organizations and individuals today: What will people do better than computers? As technology gallops ahead, taking over more skilled and highly paid work, how will people keep adding value? A leading economist says these issues are “the defining economic feature of our era.” Geoff Colvin explains the issues and answers the questions, showing how people can keep adding value – more than ever – by becoming excellent at the deepest, most essentially human skills.

Among the most important:

-Empathy. It doesn’t just mean feeling someone else’s pain. It means discerning what another person is thinking or feeling – whether it’s pain, interest, confusion, fear, desire, or anything else – and responding in an appropriate way. An ability to do that in any setting is crucial to building powerful relationships and is the foundation of all the other high-value skills.

-Creative problem-solving in groups. The problems that most organizations face today are too complex for anyone to solve alone. The work must be done by teams, and the key to team effectiveness isn’t what most people think. Rather than IQ, cohesion, or motivation, the critical factor is the members’ social sensitivity, their ability to “read” one another. That’s more important than all the other factors combined.

-Storytelling. Organizations haven’t traditionally valued storytelling. Instead they value charts and graphs. Companies will always have to make decisions based on rational analysis of data – but that’s exactly what technology does so well, encompassing more data and stronger analysis every day. Human value is migrating elsewhere. And if you want to change people’s minds, if you want to inspire them to act, tell them a story.

While some think of these skills as traits (you’ve got them or you don’t), Colvin shows how they are trainable skills and how leading organizations are developing them right now. We can all get better at them, and we all will have to.

Based on his new book Humans Are Underrated, which The New York Times calls “profound,” Colvin’s talk is inspiring, entertaining, mind-opening, and highly practical.

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