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The Value of Soft Skills and Small Teams

The Value of Soft Skills and Small Teams

by Starling Insights

Starling Insights Editorial Board

Mar 28, 2024


In the February 2024 edition of his "Social Capital Compendium" LinkedIn article series, Michael Arena, co-founder of the Connected Commons and former Vice President of Talent & Development at Amazon Web Services, discusses recent research into the value of soft skills and small teams in leading complex organizations.

"In the rapidly advancing age of artificial intelligence (AI), the ascension of soft skills is seemingly becoming more important," Arena writes. “As AI automates routine tasks and technical competencies become standardized, the ability to navigate intricate human networks becomes increasingly crucial. This will require better communication, emotional intelligence, collaboration, and adaptability.”

Arena also references research showing that, as workplaces are increasingly incorporating AI into their processes, harnessing the potential of small, tightly-knit teams will be essential. "Cohesive teams, characterized by strong collaboration and shared goals, foster an environment of trust and cooperation, enabling faster movement and bolder innovation," he writes.

The article provides five potential actions leaders can consider as they seek to adapt their organizations to modern challenges:

  • Prioritizing soft skills, by investing in programs that improve communication, empathy, and collaboration;
  • Reducing collaborative drag, by eliminating meeting overload to enable deeper focus and more meaningful interactions;
  • Creating a balanced network, by cultivating connections between employees and accessing more diverse perspectives;
  • Encouraging local collaboration, by fostering a collaborative culture among small teams to allow for more idea-sharing; and 
  • Facilitating bridging, by encouraging inter-team connections to create a more innovative organization.

Read more from Michael Arena in Starling's 2022 Compendium, wherein he contributed a Peer Perspectives piece entitled "Organizational Culture is Caught, Not Taught."

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