Enough with ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills – let’s get smart and sharp instead – Charles Fine, Loredana Padurean

Charles Fine, President and Dean, Asia School of Business

Loredana Padurean, Assoc. Dean and Faculty Director for Action Leaning at ASB, and International Faculty Fellow at MIT

When Loredana Padurean, a co-author of this article, shared her concern that she might not have the right skills to co-lead the startup Asia School of Business (ASB), her former boss responded: “The job is easy; the people are not.” While her initial worry was that she didn’t have enough “hard skills,” such as finance or accounting, she realized very early on that her boss was right about the people issues. If Loredana wanted success, she needed to step up her “soft skills,” such as cognitive readiness, strategic and critical thinking, emotional maturity, adaptability, and ethical and cultural sensitivities.

At ASB, established in 2015 in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management, we have expanded on the concepts of soft and hard but eliminated that terminology; we’ve replaced it instead with “smart” and “sharp” skills, with a pedagogical change to reflect the linguistic change.

Dictionaries define the word “soft” with words like smooth, mild, gentle,
quiet, tender, and weak. However, it turns out there is nothing “soft” about managing diverse teams. Navigating competing perspectives and cultures does not come smoothly; pitching and presenting projects is not a tender act; handling and delivering critical feedback often is not mild; and dealing with office politics is certainly not for the weak. So why do we still refer to these skills as soft?

Analogously, “hard” is defined with words like firm, rigid, resistant, free of weakness, unlikely to change, harsh, severe. But should the so-called hard skills required today—such as coding, finance, accounting, statistics, mathematics, machine learning, engineering—be defined by these attributes? Considering the constant changes in technology, and the subsequent need for users to adapt, these characteristics hardly seem fitting.

Read More »

How to improve Boston’s infrastructure future – Venkat Sumantran, Charles Fine, and David Gonsalvez

MIT Sloan Professor Charles Fine

CEO and rector at the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation, David Gonsalvez

Chairman of Celeris Technologies, Venkat Sumantran

From the Boston Globe

Mayor Marty Walsh and his team deserve a great deal of credit for creating an enlightened, forward-looking vision for Boston’s transportation future. The initiative Go Boston 2030 tackles a key challenge for the city: its aging mobility infrastructure. However, this plan is missing several opportunities to improve the livability of Boston and foster inclusive economic growth. The plan can and should be more ambitious.

Changes to the plan are critical, since a city’s mobility architecture can have a huge impact on its economy. Inefficiencies that sap economic growth stem from many sources like loss of productivity of people and assets, air quality remediation costs, reduced attractiveness to businesses, and impact on health. In 2016, Boston’s ranking in the INRIX traffic scorecard, which analyzes the impact of traffic in cities around the world, deteriorated from number 28 to 16 among US cities with the worst traffic congestion. The average Boston motorist wastes more than 57 hours each year, notwithstanding declining per capita use of personal transportation. Commuters on I-93, Storrow Drive, and Routes 1 and 128 know this all too well.

Access, connectedness, and capacity — Grade: B

Over 30 percent of the city’s lowest income residents are inadequately served by public or alternative travel modes and are pushed toward car-dependency. In contrast, for those in the highest income segment, only 10 percent face this situation. Initiatives such as the proposed investments in the Green Links project, seeking a four-fold increase in pedestrian commutes, as well as the expansion of the Hubway bike-share system, will widen options for many commuters. Their options may be even more comprehensively augmented with better connectivity.

Boston’s mass transit is highly dependent on the radial metro routes and offers fewer services to many whose commutes do not take them to downtown locations. Adding more circumferential routes for high-capacity Bus Rapid Transit — such as connecting Brighton and Dorchester or Fenway with South Boston — with synchronized connections to existing T stops, could offer many commuters more efficient travel with moderate investment. These systems could also serve as feeders to underserved regions such as Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, and South Boston.

In addition, the issue of capacity augmentation needs urgent attention. To overcome funding limitations, the plan’s expectation to encourage ride-share vans to complement public transit deserves faster expansion. Yet, to avoid controversies, such as those that have arisen with the expansion of app-hailed taxis like Uber and Lyft, these services will need to be operated with appropriate governance, regulations, and oversight.

Read More »