Krypton Community College

Soft skills and hard

Which comes first?

Do successful people learn hard skills (differential calculus, advanced Spanish, Ruby on Rails) and then go on to learn the soft stuff (connection, innovation, humility, initiative, the ability to ship work that matters) or does it happen the other way around?

I think the answer has shifted, and just recently.

The industrial model of schooling involves more than a dozen years of hard skills, pushed, prodded and poked onto students who learn them in order to move forward. And the assumption is that as you engage in the test-and-measure forced march of hard skill learning, you will pick up the other stuff along the way.

But in the all-you-can-eat abundant world of access to education, the question is, “who will push themselves to learn this stuff if they are given access?”

Most people with access to a MOOC never even sign up. Most people who sign up, don’t finish. Why not? Because without the soft skills to push ourselves and own the process, we never acquire the hard skills.

Krypton can’t add much value in the process to learn hard skills. It’s not clear to me that a four-week in-person process is going to help you push through the hard parts of advanced programming or civil engineering… certainly not at the mass scale I’d like to achieve.

On the other hand, the work of folks like Gretchen Rubin, Fred Wilson, Chris Guillebeau, Jacqueline Novogratz (all part of our upcoming courses) is precisely aimed at waking us up and taking us somewhere we might not go. My course starts us off next month (I'll post early next week), and we'll keep layering on folks with work this soft/important/personal, month after month.

The class doesn't exist to test you on your knowledge. Instead, it's a safe space to share your experience, to expose your fear and most of all, to push yourself to explore how to do work that matters.

Call the content of TED videos and blogs ‘soft’ if you want to, but my experience tells me that in the world of ‘pick yourself’, the doors are only open to those that actually show a willingness to expose themselves to the risk of walking through them.

Doing that with a few colleagues and friends at your side makes that journey a lot more likely.