August 5, 2022

At some moment, for some reason, it became standard to call the most intrinsic human skills soft skills, duly classified in contrast to the highly-prized hard skills, more associated to specialized technical-operational knowledge. Technical training focused on disseminating products, processes, concepts and methodologies to millions of employees and managers as one of the levers of productivity and quality.

Operational manuals, technical guidebooks, conceptual books were (are and will be) created and distributed in commercial, manufacturing and administrative areas. As expected, the knowledge spiral expanded gradually and fast: new concepts, new products, new processes, new methodologies. Even more with the never-ending advances of technology and science, pushing the continuous improvements associated to daily learning itself.

For sure, such hard knowledge has been and will always be essential to human evolution. Including the invention of the wheel, the mastery of fire, the manipulation of iron, the domestication of animals, the establishment of agriculture, the division of work, the coding of language, the mathematical treaties, the biochemical experiments, the abstract creation of laws and institutions. The advances and expansions of technical-operational knowledge along the human supremacy in history are so many that, after so many millennia, we have expanded the ambitions beyond the planet. Yet again demonstrating the expansion is always continuous, erratic and endless.

Notwithstanding, the conventional denomination of soft for the intrinsic human skills assumes implicitly (albeit unintentionally) that they would be something secondary or, at least, simpler in the human development process. After all, why would human beings encounter difficulties developing human skills?

The weakness in that assumption lies exactly in the mistake of supposing the intrinsic human skills develop naturally through aging or, still, in postulating such skills may be coded in training manuals that may be replicated in repeating and conditioning cycles. At some moment not so long ago, the use of methods aimed at coaching and conditioning behaviors to train human skills to schoolchildren and company workers was even encouraged. It did not work...

Human skills are as complex as (and probably more abstract than) technical-operational skills. In a certain way, it does not seem hard to argue that operationalizing an assembly line cannot be more challenging than inspiring a few hundred workers and managers employed at the same manufacturing plant. Similarly, it does not seem preposterous to agree that understanding the rules of a life insurance policy is easier than influencing the people in an organization’s different management areas to carry out given projects.

Indeed. It is a fact that human skills may be, most times, described easily. The full experience, in turn, is always challenging, although such skills are part of our innate repertory: instincts have always accompanied us before rationalization.

As such, the obvious seems to take over organizations’ contemporary agendas: at times of digital transformation, it is crucial to put together teams specialized in digital processes and methodologies, but it is vital to develop the human skills that will enable the new operational and organizational models. High Tech/High Touch concerns that.

Being creative, influential, empathetic, wholesome and brave is certainly more challenging than learning the basic functions on an HP12C. The latter even comes with a manual, while the former...


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA), como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc e com Membro do Conselho de Administração da Afferolab. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial, Anthesis e Data Insights.