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Investing in ‘human skills’ has been the biggest game-changer for me – even though it ironically happened by chance. Late in 2016, my journey as an innovation coach started when I was asked to serve as a stand-in support coach for a 2-day workshop with young professionals. There was a brief introduction into the key methodologies (Design Thinking and Business Model Innovation), the structure of the workshop, and I was supposed to support with logistics and team dynamics. As I was watching the workshop unfold, observing the lead coach effortlessly driving the energy of the group, creating an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration, I was fascinated by what I learned and I knew I wanted to become a coach myself. Fortunately, the lead coach gave me the opportunity to drive some parts of the workshop and even though I was thrown into the cold water, I truly enjoyed the swim. I was hooked, to say the least.

Little did I know back in 2016, that learning about methodologies such as Design Thinking, Business Model Innovation and Creative Coaching to name a few, will empower me to become better at my job and become a better person at the same time. Back then, I set the foundation to build competencies that would allow me to tap into my full potential and craft a future-proof skill set, beyond my functional skills, that would set me apart from most of today’s workforce.

Human skills multiplied across the entire workforce accelerate growth and success more than anything else

It’s no secret that human skills are the future. Skills learned at universities are expected to be outdated in five years, according to the 2020 “The Future of Learning” report by KPMG. On the other hand, skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, flexibility, and active learning are increasing in demand moving forward, according to the World Economic Forum’s recent “Future of Jobs” report.

But what is the reason that these skills are in such high demand? They can turn an employee – regardless of job or seniority level – into superman or superwoman. They help to bring out everyone’s superpowers and transform teams into highly effective and high-performing special units. Of course not over night, but more on this later.

Just imagine a fully embedded “there’s no challenge that can’t be solved” mindset, across an entire team, an entire organization, or even entire societies. In times of unprecedented change and continuous disruption, that is probably the most critical mindset I can think of.

Let me paint that picture differently: Which organization has the liberty not needing a problem-solving culture these days? There is a huge opportunity cost linked to not acknowledging the importance and not taking action to build and foster human skills that enable these kinds of mindsets and culture. It is as important to identify tomorrow’s challenges as it is to seize tomorrow’s opportunities and cultivate mindsets and cultures that allow to do both.

And apart from being critical for organizations, human skills provide a key advantage for professionals. Experts are increasingly confirming: it is all about the skills, not the degree. This shift has already started, and no one should be late to this party.

It is important to nurture a culture that underpins a growth mindset and an overall passion for learning

Building human skills, fostering them, creating mindsets and eventually a culture, in which all of this is embedded, is a lengthy and iterative process. The deeper those elements are anchored in each individual, the bigger is the impact on a larger group and eventually an entire organization. The key is to create habits and behaviors around learning and enablement instead of one-off activities. It is a long-term process with in-depth discussions, strategic planning, time, investment, and buy-in from leadership - yet it’s worth it.

According to the KPMG report “Future of HR 2020: Which path are you taking?” the employee experience can directly influence the customer experience and can positively impact business profitability. Investing into employee experience can lead to more than four times the average profit, more than two times the average revenue, and higher engagement levels. This can lead to an organization outperforming its peers by 147 percent in earnings per share.

If done right, it’s a virtuous circle: uniquely skilled employees with passion for learning take an organization that invests in strategic and sophisticated learning experiences to new heights.

And in my opinion, there is no better scenario to learn and build these skills and mindsets than through Design Thinking, Business Model Innovation and other innovation methodologies. In fact, these methodologies can be used to (re-)design learning experiences and solve the challenge of nurturing a culture of learning and complex problem-solving.

Proven methods make all the difference when (re-)designing the learning experience in the context of human skills

Design Thinking, defined by The HPI School of Design Thinking (HPI D-School) as a “human-centered, iterative, team-based mindset that leads to breakthrough innovations” has been used by individuals and organizations of all kinds to solve complex problems in an innovative way and (re-)design game-changing products, services and in the context of the emerging experience economy to (re-)design experiences.

Leveraging this proven methodology is the perfect starting point when (re-)designing the learning experience in the context of human skills. Learning-experience design techniques and principles, anchored in design thinking, will allow for an environment where learning human skills is embedded in the day to day activities of each individual and every team, beyond instructional design.

While the focus of instructional design is “instruction” for content consumed by learners, leveraging design thinking principles allows to meet the needs of learners through a holistic user-centric approach that ultimately leads to growth mindset behaviors and an overall passion for learning.

With the Design Thinking methodology at the core, there are limitless opportunities to make your organization ready for the skill revolution. And here are 5 tips to help you on this exciting journey:


It’s not the question if, but when ‘human skills’ will be indispensable

As I’m looking back on designing and facilitating workshops in several countries for people from all over the globe, from rural Uganda without electricity to the most well-equipped and sophisticated design spaces in the United Arab Emirates, in virtual and physical settings, I have learned the most valuable lessons and skills that changed my professional and personal life.

I wish that every individual, every team, every organization gets enabled on these skills as they are the foundation for limitless growth and innovation by creating opportunities to develop and hone new capabilities and ways of thinking. In my view, it is just a matter of time before ‘human skills’ will be indispensable.

The good news is: SAP launched a service that helps you with exactly that. SAP Innovate to Win is designed to help organizations get enabled on innovation frameworks and mindsets and apply these to build an internal culture around innovation and agility. We practice what we preach and provide this service internally to our teams and externally to our customers. You can get a sneak peek with our free openSAP course ‘Design Thinking in a Nutshell’, which will go live on October 4, 2021.