This recent Article describes how Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google on the conviction that STEM expertise was the dominant piece of the capability profile – setting its hiring algorithms to look for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, they decided to test this hypothesis by analyzing the hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since their incorporation in 1998.
Imagine their surprise, when the study determined that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. What Google found was that the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” – Alvin Tofler: Rethinking the Future
This is my favorite quote these days in light of what’s coming. The future is about our capacity to learn, our ability to accelerate learning, our willingness to unlearn, and our need for life-long learning. Our right brain characteristics play a much bigger role in this future – and our learning paradigms and institutions must change to enable 21st century literacy.