Solutions Consulting — Soft Skills for the next decade
“When experts are wrong, it’s often because they’re experts on an earlier version of the world.”
Solutions Consultants are those who need to understand a little bit of everything, translate the complexity of technology into an easy-to-understand language and connect the needs of their customers to the solutions they work with. To fulfill this mission and be a trusted advisor for customers, sales reps and partners they need to deeply understand customers business, technological innovations and products.
How to achieve this when all this is changing rapidly and radically?
Today our customers are no longer just the IT department, we have to talk to different personas and understand their customers’ journey applied to different business contexts. New businesses that are born digital reach an incredible scale of use and become essential services overnight and even our products, which we used to know so well, have been transformed at a speed that no one can keep up with.
This is not just a challenge for GoTo Solutions Consultants, but for all professionals living in this period of our history. More than anything, we are having to navigate the sea of uncertainty, it has been said for a long time that the world after 2020 would be VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) and now we are experiencing uncertainty in all its magnitude, we don’t know what the next week will be like, we have no idea of the economic and social collapse, and the world we are going to live in a month from now.
How can we better prepare? What skills do we need to develop?
The historian Yuval Nohal Harari in his book 21 lessons for the 21st Century points out that the two main skills for this age are: Adptability and Self-awareness and emotional intelligence. The World Economic Forum in its well-known publications indicates that the most important skills for 2025 involve Complex problem-solving, Critical and System Thinking, Working with People and Self-Management which includes active learning strategies and resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
Traditionally technology companies have prioritized technical learning and just getting better at what we do, acquiring more knowledge and competencies.
Now we are being invited to a new kind of personal development it is not only about learning new things , it also includes transformation — changing the way we know and understand the world. It is about how one thinks and feel and have the ability to think in more complex , systemic , strategic , and interdependent ways.
A recent Deloitte study on the future of work divided these required skills into four categories, with a suggested order of development.
- First Skills:
- Collaboration and Teamwork
- Emotional intelligence
- Entrepreneurial Skills:
- Criativity and innovation
- Make it happen
- Working Skills
- Time management
- Presentations / Public Speaking
- Technical abilities:
- Specific skills for each area
The development of other soft skills enhances the technical skills of Solutions Consultants, allowing them to work in contexts of greater complexity, generating much more impact on the opportunities in which they work.
How do we learn?
“If you’re only focused on putting out fires and attending meetings all day, if you’re unable to set your limits and make time in your schedule to learn, you’re stuck in the present.”
One of the theories that explains the learning process and that can be useful to us is four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model:
“The four stages suggest that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.
The four stages are:
- Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
- Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
- Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
- Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned. “
Following this model, a good start is to talk about the current context and the skills needed, bring light to blind spots that we may have about certain skills and allow each one to identify where in the journey they are in each of them.
What skills I want to learn? What skills I need to practice? What skills I can teach and support other people development?
These are questions that must be continually encouraged by each individual to ask and that can activate a team that learns together.
I believe that true learning only happens from the inside out and never top-down. Learning is a self-directed process of knowledge in which the individual takes the leading role in his own evolution.
Active Learning and personal learning strategies is one the main skills identified by the WEF for 2025.
What is the role of the company in the learning process?
Companies need to continuously remove barriers to learning.
A learning organization need more than formal training, it create opportunities for people to have transformational experiences. Provide support to understand and integrate the insights from those experiences.
Companies are responsible for creating a safe space where learning can take place. Learning is stimulated through everyday interactions, with specific rituals and artifacts presents in everyday activities.
Topics like Soft Skills, personal development, current world context and future scenarios need to be alive and present in regular meetings, planing and reviews.
This movement can start with some actions:
- Invite people to know and reflect on the skills needed for the next decade.
- Open spaces for interaction where people can talk about the challenges they are facing and what paths and solutions they are creating to update themselves.
- Create small practice groups where people can learn together and get feedback from each other on certain skills
- Connect with projects and people outside the organization where they can put new skills in practice and receive support.