Saturday, September 17, 2011

Developing Social Skills versus Socialability

Author Richard Florida is one of our leading experts on creativity and innovation (currently reading his The Rise of the Creative Class - - Florida will be speaking at an urban planning conference for North Texas at the University of Texas at Arlington in October) in the context of where innovation occurs.  Central to our continued economic growth and prosperity is innovation - - and it is mainly in higher density urban environments.  In The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida also points out the linkage between higher levels of innovation and the gay population (Florida typically thinks in terms of three socio-economic classes and indexes - - Working Class, Creative Class, and Gay Class).  The higher level of gays in an urban environments - - the greater the creativity and innovation.  Education levels and density/networks of creative workers are clearly important, but so is diversity and tolerance in terms of promoting innovation.

In the current The Atlantic, Florida has an article (Where The Skills Are) that overlays his previous observations with the realization that creativity and innovation in urban environments is also a function of social networks.  As Florida states - -  ". . . humanity's greatest social innovation remains the city.  As our cities grow larger, the synapses that connect them - - people with exceptional social skills - - are becoming ever more essential to economic growth."

Florida has a great observation in the following paragraph that all engineers need to understand, remember, and practice:

"Highly developed social skills are different from mere sociability.  They include persuasion, social perceptiveness, the capacity to bring the right people together on a project, the ability to help develop other people, and a keen sense of empathy.  These are quintessential leadership skills needed to innovate, mobilize resources, build effective organizations, and launch new firms.  They are highly complementary to analytic skills - - and indeed, the very highest-paying jobs (and the most robust economies) usually require exceptional skill in both realms  Nonetheless, social skills seem to grow ever more essential as local economies grow larger and more complex.  In this sense, cites are like brains: their growth and development require the growth and development of an increasingly dense web of synaptic connections."

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